Chinese Grand Prix - team and driver preview quotes 13 Apr 2009
With the Shanghai circuits stunning architecture, winding turns and high-speed straights, its easy to see why the teams endure the city's traffic to enjoy racing in China. Here senior team personnel and the drivers contemplate their hopes for next weekend, and explain why they count this track as one of their favourites
Jenson Button, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 18th, 2008 Race - 16th
"After the excitement of the first two races, it has been great to have the chance to relax and reflect for a few days since the dramatic race in Malaysia. I am understandably delighted with how our season has begun however we are only two races in and everyone at the team is aware that our competitors will not stand still. We fully expect a tough fight from here if we want to continue our early successes. Looking ahead, the Shanghai International Circuit is an enjoyable one for the drivers and a good technical challenge to find the right set-up. I particularly enjoy the high-speed sections and the overtaking opportunities going into the tight right-hander at turn five and at the end of the back straight."
Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP
2008 Qualifying - 13th, 2008 Race - 11th
"It seems strange to be returning to China already but I'm looking forward to the weekend as Shanghai is an impressive facility and the circuit provides an interesting challenge for the drivers. The track holds some good memories for me as I won the first race here in 2004. With the car that we have this year, it is so exciting to be able to return with the opportunity to compete at the front again. The BGP 001 has gone well at the two very different race tracks in Australia and Malaysia so it will be interesting to see how the car performs in Shanghai which is quite a unique circuit. You need to have a very good aerodynamic balance combined with a stable car and good straightline speed to take advantage of the long straights."
Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal
"It has been an incredible five weeks for the Brawn GP team which began with the first running of our new car at Silverstone on 6 March and concluded with the two successive victories in Australia and Malaysia. Without doubt it has been an intense and hard-working period for everyone involved with the team and they deserve all credit for their commitment. The short break between the two sets of back-to-back flyaway races has been a welcome opportunity for the team to regroup at the factory in Brackley, to assess our performance and to plan ahead for the forthcoming races. Whilst there have been no developments to the car, we have taken the opportunity to address a few small issues which arose over the first two races and we are in good shape for the next race in China. We are expecting temperatures will be cooler and less humid this year with the race taking place six months earlier. Therefore as was the case in Malaysia, we will need to be prepared for the unexpected as rain has played its part in recent races at the Shanghai International Circuit."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 20th, 2008 Race - 17th
The main goal this weekend is to have a clean event without any mistakes, qualify well and to finish the race. I think its too early to start hoping for points yet, but we need to keep the momentum going and get as much information as possible so when we introduce new parts we can really see an improvement.
Adrian Sutil, Force India
2008 Qualifying - 19th, 2008 Race - DNF
China can be a tough race as the humidity is high and it can get very hot in the car. There are some long straights though so you can recover a bit. The pit straight is not too long but it goes into T1 that is very quick on entry and then tightens up quite a lot. It seems like a neverending corner as it gets tighter and tighter, changing down the gears until you get down to second. Then we go into a tight right and tight left that is very difficult to accelerate from as its a long turn and the car tends to oversteer. From there, there is a little straight up to sixth gear then a hairpin you take in first or second gear depending on whether you are qualifying or racing. Following this there is quite a good section that flows really well before a tricky right hander. You get a lot of understeer in the mid corner and there are a few bumps that give a tendency to understeer. One of the most difficult turns is from T11 through to the longest straight. That straight seems to last forever: you reach 310kph before a very tight second gear hairpin that you need to brake very late for. The last corner before the pit straight is a nice kink, very simple but blind, with a bump. The key point is to take it easy in the exit as you can overcook it and run wide. If you have a perfect lap you can lose everything there.
The aims for Shanghai, as for the previous races, is to be reliable and get to the finish. This year Ive got a 100 percent finish record so far, and I want to keep this up. Weve seen that some of the other teams are having problems with KERS and the order is not so fixed at the moment so if you get to the finish theres a good chance you could do well. I think this should be our goal for now - but when we get back to Europe I want to be racing on merit, not just waiting for something to happen to another driver.
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer
China is the reference modern track with long straights followed by hairpins and some challenging corners, for example the turn one complex. We use a compromise set-up to allow speed down the straights but maintain grip levels and balance in the corners. The drivers brake quite late and deep into the corners so stability is important, but conversely graining of the tyres can also be a problem. Weve raced in China quite recently at the end of 2008, and to come back after a few months with the 2009 cars will be an interesting experience. A factor that can have a bearing on the strategy is Shanghais climate that can range from high humidity and heavy rain to blistering temperatures. It can change very quickly - as we saw in 2007 - so engineers will have to be on top form to deal with any potential changes and safety car periods.
Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 17th, 2008 Race - 12th
I like this part of the world and for me its close to home so I get to enjoy something similar to my own culture for a little longer. Shanghai is definitely a challenging circuit, but at least Ive now had some experience of it so its not new for me anymore. Last year, we struggled on tracks like China, but now our car is looking quite strong. Its well balanced in the high and low speed corners so Im hoping well go much better there this year and I can score my first points of the season.
Nico Rosberg, Williams
2008 Qualifying - 14th, 2008 Race - 15th
Shanghais a drivers track. Theres a great mix of corners and then there are those two long straights so plenty of overtaking opportunities around the lap which will be good for the racing. Sepang showed that the team seem to have fixed the problem we had last year on these types of circuits so its now looking like we have consistency. Im confident that well have another competitive weekend in China. Top eight for sure. I enjoy visiting Shanghai. Experiencing a different culture is always very interesting and there are some great places to go, like the malls for shopping or the restaurants and bars in the evenings. The fans are also very enthusiastic which is nice!
Fernando Alonso, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 4th, 2008 Race - 4th
Shanghai is definitely a circuit that I enjoy and it's quite similar to Sepang with some quick corners, long straights and low-speed sections. You therefore have to find a compromise with the set-up to make sure you have enough downforce for the high-speed sections, but also good straight-line speed. I won the race there in 2005 when Renault also won the constructors' championship so it's a track with good memories for the team. I also enjoy being in China and the fans are really enthusiastic about Formula One.
Nelson Piquet, Renault
2008 Qualifying - 10th, 2008 Race - 8th
The team is very motivated and determined to do a good job in China. We improved the car between Australia and Malaysia and we need to continue in this direction to try and get more from our package in China. I know the guys back at the factory are working really hard to prepare upgrades for later in the year and I'm sure we will continue to get stronger and stronger throughout the season.
After two races we've seen how close all the teams are, but I will still aim for the points this weekend. I need to make sure I improve my performance in qualifying so that I can reach Q2 or Q3 and have a good strategy for the race. We also need to see how the different tyres perform because Shanghai is quite a tough circuit for the tyres and we will need to do a lot of evaluation on Friday to make sure we are well prepared for the race.
Bob Bell, Renault technical director
"Shanghai is a modern circuit that's quite smooth with a mix of high and low-speed sections: long straights, tight chicanes and fast, sweeping corners. Any circuit like that presents a challenge for the engineers to find a set-up that works well across a wide range of corners and speeds. It's not a particularly demanding circuit on the brakes, but it can be quite hard on the tyres, especially the first corner with its constantly tightening radius. In terms of aero levels, we will run a fairly standard package, but the priority is to find a good balance between a low and high-speed set-up.
Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 7th, 2008 Race - DNF
"I am really optimistic about the Chinese Grand Prix because we have started the season very strongly. It shows how much progress we have made since last season that in Malaysia I was a little disappointed with fourth because I wanted to finish on the podium and fight for the win. Last year in Malaysia I finished fourth and that was more than we expected. We are second in the constructors' championship so it's clear we are one of the top teams and both Timo and I have consistently been fighting at the front which is great. So the goal for me in China is to fight for the podium again and I think we have a really good chance. China is one of those circuits where I have never had much luck and it was the same last year when I was hit from behind at the first corner, so I'm determined to have a better weekend this time."
Timo Glock, Toyota
2008 Qualifying - 12th, 2008 Race - 7th
"Malaysia was a crazy race but it was a great result for the team and it gives us a lot of confidence for the Chinese Grand Prix. We were really competitive in all conditions which is a good sign because it confirms we were right to be optimistic before the season started. We have had both cars finish in the top four in both races so far this season so we are definitely aiming to challenge for the podium again, but of course it's pretty close so we will have to do another good weekend. It seems strange to be going to China in April because it has always been later in the season; the weather looks like it could be a bit cooler than usual. I quite enjoy racing at Shanghai because it's an interesting track. Last year I went well there and scored points, but I'm hoping to get more than seventh place this weekend, that's for sure."
Pascal Vasselon, Toyota senior general manager, chassis
"Shanghai is a track which offers a very wide range of cornering speeds so you cannot optimise the car just for high-speed or low-speed corners; you have to find a good balance. The unique aspect to the Shanghai track is its very long corners; turn one and turn 13. It is extremely important to get the balance of the car right in turn 13 because it comes out on to the main straight and you want to exit at the highest possible speed. These two corners and the specific lay-out in general are also demanding on tyres so overall Shanghai is quite severe in terms of tyre wear. If you have a compound which is too soft it is likely to have graining issue. So it will be interesting to see how the super soft and medium compound tyres behave this weekend."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"Shanghai International Circuit is severe on tyres. There are very high lateral forces and we expect to see graining on the front left tyres, especially caused by the increasing radius Turn Two and the banked Turn 13. We could also see graining on the rear tyres here too. The circuit layout means that a medium downforce set-up will be used, as there are two long straights, but a large percentage of the track is also very twisty and technical. For the teams and drivers, finding the correct set-up to make the best use of their tyres will be a big challenge.
"In Australia there was a particular challenge of graining on the super soft tyre, however this graining varied across the teams between the front and the rear, which means that the correct compromise set- up for these new cars is still being found. For this reason we would expect less graining in China as the teams now have better understanding of their cars than at the first race. Also, Shanghai is a permanent race track so the track surface should be better."
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 1st, 2008 Race - 1st
I really enjoy racing in Shanghai - the track is a good blend of fast and slow stuff and it throws up a few nice challenges for the drivers. Finding the right set-up is important, you need speed and balance through the high-speed corners but decent mechanical grip for the hairpins. We got it spot-on last year, and while I dont expect us to enjoy that sort of performance advantage this season, I think were all looking forward to a good showing. Hopefully, some of the upgrades weve added to MP4-24 for this race will have a benefit: it would be very encouraging if we could qualify a little further up the grid and be regularly challenging for points.
Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2008 Qualifying - 5th, 2008 Race - DNF
The best corners on the Shanghai International Circuit are Turns Six and Seven - the fast, sweeping left- and right-handers. The left is almost flat in sixth before you shift down a gear and change direction at very high speed. Its difficult to find the ideal set-up because of the variety of different corners: theres some heavy braking, fast esses and high-speed changes of direction, which require a good aero package, and some slower corners where mechanical grip is important. Its all about compromise - its a real challenge for the drivers and the engineers. But at least you can overtake - mainly into Turns Four, 10 and 13 - so I hope well see some great racing this weekend.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
We have reasons to be both disappointed and optimistic about our performance in the opening races of the 2009 season: disappointed because we do not yet possess the necessary technical package to enable us to fight with the leaders, but optimistic that our rate of progress is sufficiently rapid that we should be able to fight for points finishes on a regular basis. This weekends race will see a number of new components introduced to MP4-24, and while we do not expect them to radically transform the cars potential, they should move us a little closer to the front than we saw in the opening two races.
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President
Last year, Lewis drove an excellent race on this challenging circuit and won. For this years Chinese Grand Prix, it has to be our target to start further up the grid than was the case in the first two grands prix. Those two races showed that points-finishes or even podiums were possible, even when the basic speed was not good enough. The team has developed further technical and aerodynamic improvements which should enable us to make another small step forward.
Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 9th, 2008 Race - 5th
This years race is scheduled much earlier than before, so we can probably expect considerably lower temperatures. That will make a difference to the tyres in particular, but it will also bring with it a different atmosphere. Weve seen some good races in Shanghai, and I hope that will be the case in 2009 as well. The first corner is the highlight of the circuit. You go into it at high speed, and to begin with you stay on the throttle, but then it keeps tightening up and you have to drop down to second gear.
The city of Shanghai is just as exciting. Weve been racing there since 2004 and you can really observe how the city is changing from year to year. On the one hand there are extremely poor districts, while on the other you get smart restaurants along the Bund with a great view of the Pearl Tower and the Shanghai skyline. The traffic is unpleasant, and were not allowed to drive ourselves here. Last year my driver had an accident on the motorway on Saturday night. You quite often get cars unexpectedly stranded on the road, and obviously it was too late for him to brake. Fortunately it wasnt serious.
Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2008 Qualifying - 11th, 2008 Race - 6th
Its the first time were going to Shanghai at this time of year, when there is a high chance of rain. That can have a major impact on the whole weekend, of course. The circuit is very challenging with long straights and hard braking. Plus there are several high-speed corners, for example the slightly banked right-hander you take at almost full throttle and that leads onto the back straight. Its one of the longest straights on the whole race calendar. And, of course, the combination of turn one and two with the blind apex and the long braking is a real challenge. So far Shanghai hasnt brought me any luck, but Im hoping that will change this time round.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
After a short Easter break, we look forward to the second back-to-back of the season. Shanghai is a booming city of millions, and the sheer scale of the race track and its facilities are unsurpassed. From the point of view of BMW as a car manufacturer and all our partners, the Chinese Grand Prix is of significant commercial interest. This region has enormous growth potential. Unlike last year, this years race takes place early on in the season. In Shanghai we hope to continue on from our successful result in Kuala Lumpur.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering
The Shanghai circuit has several fast corners that demand a great deal of downforce and high vehicle stability. Due to the restrictions on aerodynamics introduced this season, we will probably be running with maximum downforce. But there are also long straights where maximum speed is of the essence. Because the track is very wide and the run-off areas are mostly tarred, a bit of a slide doesnt necessarily mean youre out of the race. Thats an incentive for the drivers to overtake, so we can look forward to quite a spectacular race. Good car balance is important, particularly in the first turn combination. The drivers go into it at very high speed and brake deep into the corner. This section is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the season in terms of testing driving skills. All in all, Shanghai is a very challenging circuit.