“It’s great fun getting to grips with a new circuit and once you’ve done a few laps, it’s not such a big issue, as long as the weather is on your side so you can build momentum. I walked the track last year with Mercedes and obviously I’ve prepared on the simulator, so I just want to get stuck into FP1 now and see how our package performs here.”
“It was funny to hear about those [rocket] comments from Kev [Magnussen] during the race [in Bahrain]. It was true though; the car was really quick on the straights and there are a couple of good ones here at Shanghai. What we know from Bahrain though is that there’s some more work to do to get the best from the car throughout the lap. There is still a lot we can do to continue improving the set-up and here we need a good compromise from straights to turns. It’s quite a challenging track so I’m looking forward to getting started.”
You’re no stranger to the Shanghai International Circuit, are you?
“[Shanghai] is a track I know really well from my Asian Formula Renault Challenge and Formula BMW Pacific days. It’s fun and challenging to drive so it will be nice to come back here and see how it feels in a Formula 1 car!
“There was a lot to take away and think about after Bahrain and I’m sure we’ll see more from the car and myself in China. Hopefully we will have made some further improvements with the set-up and I can feel a little more confident with the car.”
“Anywhere that has Asian food is okay with me. Plus, I head back to Indonesia after every race, so what is a long haul for the team is actually a short haul for me. In the absence of an Indonesian Grand Prix – yet! – the Asian races are home turf for me, so it’s nice that there are so many of them.”
Dave Ryan, racing director
“This is quite a demanding track, due to the heavy braking after the long straights and also tyre management. We’ve suffered a bit with tyre wear in the past two races and it’s an area we’re spending a lot of time thinking about. If we can get on top of it a little more we’ll be much better placed all round. Power-wise, it should suit us.
“I think what’s most encouraging for us is how much potential for improvement there is. Bahrain showed just how far we’d come in the space of only one race and the signs are really encouraging. Both drivers are doing a fantastic job and we’re starting to work really well together as a team unit. We’re in the mix now, so the challenge is to keep building on that because nothing stands still for very long in Formula 1 – especially the competition.”
“The Chinese Grand Prix is always a little bit of an unknown: the weather is often changeable as it’s spring time in Shanghai and the temperatures can often fluctuate, which influences the car’s set-up and balance over the course of the weekend. Track temperatures will be much cooler than what we saw in Bahrain, which means keeping heat in the tyres is harder to maintain, so we’ll need to focus this weekend on optimising our set-up for the variable conditions.
“The track itself features a challenging mix of corners, and the two long, fast right-handers place a lot of wear on the tyres, especially the front left. It can therefore place huge emphasis on tyre wear and graining, so it’s important we get the tyres working properly from the start of every stint so we can manage them during the race and get the best out of them. The circuit is enjoyable to drive, and there are some fun, high-speed sections around the back, so I’m excited to see what our chassis and power unit are capable of there this year.”
“It was disappointing to be told I couldn’t race in Bahrain, but I fully respected the decision of the FIA medical team. While I hope I’ll be back in the cockpit on Friday, until I get the all-clear from the doctors to race – whenever that may be – we cannot assume anything, but I’m continuing to prepare for the race weekend as normal.
“Stoffel did a great job in Bahrain, and although Jenson suffered reliability issues, it was positive to see that both cars ran quite strongly during the weekend. It was also interesting for me to see the race weekend unfold from a different perspective, which helped me to understand everything that goes into getting the cars on track and learn a lot about the different processes, although I’d still prefer to be racing! I’ve always enjoyed driving in China – I’ve won there twice before – and I hope we’ll be able to have some good battles on track and see more progress this weekend.”
“The Shanghai International Circuit has an interesting mix of requirements – quite a few slow- and medium-speed corners, which are followed by two very long straights – one being 1.17km (0.727 miles), and the longest of the season. That places a lot of stress on both the tyres and the power unit, but I’m hopeful that with this year’s package, we won’t suffer as much on this track as we have done previously. The key will be preparation and set-up: getting the aero balance right from Friday onwards, and getting on top of the tyre wear with every new set.
“This won’t be an easy race for us – the conditions will be very different to Australia and Bahrain – but it’ll be good for us to test the characteristics of the MP4-31 there, and understand as much as we can about how it behaves on this sort of track and with the cooler temperatures. It’s important we gather as much information as possible and take into account all variables as we visit each circuit, so that we can adapt this for Grands Prix later on in the year. It’s a long season, and we’re looking for improvements and progress at every race.”
“The Bahrain race weekend was bittersweet on my side of the garage. We definitely saw another step in the car’s performance from Australia as we keep learning more about the handling and characteristics of the car, and bring new upgrades to each grand prix. Friday practice was a real positive, but unfortunately we couldn’t make it stick in qualifying and then suffered reliability issues in the race. Saying that, until the point when we lost power, the car had felt very good, and I’m hopeful that we can continue that momentum in Shanghai and make the most of the package we have.
“As always though, we need to work hard on our reliability. We’ve definitely seen an improvement in that area, but anything less than 100 per cent is never enough, and it’s important we take advantage of our progress to bring home the points we deserve and have something to show for all of our efforts. The Chinese Grand Prix is a very different challenge from the past two races, and I’ve enjoyed racing there in the past. My victory there in 2010 was very memorable and a great race – it just shows how the changeable conditions can really mix things up – so I hope we can enjoy some more good racing there this weekend, and most importantly, see the chequered flag.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“While we definitely saw a reassuring improvement in our performance in Bahrain, we cannot take anything for granted, and it’s imperative that we don’t waste opportunities to score valuable points due to lack of reliability, as we saw at the last race. At the very least, we must learn from every situation, and in the case of Jenson’s power unit issue, we’ve done so, so we go to China with continued optimism that we can try to maximise the potential of our package.
“Despite the decision from the FIA medical team that Fernando was not able to race, the team prepared admirably for the weekend, and Stoffel did a fantastic job to score his and the team’s first championship point of the year, in his debut grand prix. Once again, Stoffel will be on standby until Fernando has his routine meeting with FIA doctors on Thursday, and until then we will be readying ourselves as normal. Fernando has been recuperating at home and training as usual, and we, like him, hope to see him back in the car. We’ll accept the outcome – whatever that may be – and plan accordingly.
“Next weekend will also see the return of the 2015 qualifying format, which is certainly a positive step for the fans and will hopefully offer a more watchable, engaging qualifying process than the interim solution we saw at the last couple of races. Operationally, the McLaren-Honda team will adapt in our usual way and make the most of the track time and resources available to us in each session. Tyres and power units will be the big talking points this weekend on this challenging, but nonetheless varied and interesting Shanghai International Circuit, so set-up, management and reliability will be key to ensuring we achieve our potential in China.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“As we saw from Stoffel's pace in Bahrain, we have surely come a long way since last year. We still need a bit more overall package performance to tackle the long, one-kilometre straight in Shanghai, but it’s reassuring to know that we’re heading in the right direction.
“There was a mechanical issue on Jenson's ICE which we will replace for the upcoming race weekend. The situation has been thoroughly investigated, and will be rectified in all future engines to be used.”
“I like China, I remember I had some good overtakes there! The first four corners of the circuit, Turns 1 to 4, are a very special part and tricky to get right.
“Another part of the track that I enjoyed last year was Turn 6… I did a good move there! I couldn't overtake Perez on the straight, so I had to do it somewhere else… I got a good exit out of Turn 5 and, approaching Turn 6, where you normally brake late – as it's a hairpin – I managed to overtake him by braking even later than usual. It's a big relief when you finally get passed a rival and I was very happy.
“Turns 7, 8, 9 and 10 are hard on the tyres, so you have to save the rears a bit to get good traction out of there. Another thing I remember from this circuit are the overtakes at Turn 14 – I prepared myself well down the long straight each time and in the end managed to get by from very far! Unfortunately, last year I had a little issue on the main straight with only a few laps to go… And had to retire.
“I will try not to think about it this year and fight to see the chequered flag in the best possible position.”
“In China you drive down the main straight and arrive to a couple of very long corners, Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4, which actually feel like two corners, not four. It's quite a special section and it's where I had my first mistake of the season last year, as I spun. I also remember going side by side with four cars at Turn 6 at the start of the race, which was interesting as its tight there! Turn 7 is only flat in quali.
“From Turns 7 to 10 there are a lot of changes of direction before arriving to a second long corner, Turns 12 and 13, that take you to the back straight – it's exactly like the first corner of the track, but in the opposite direction. I also recall the back straight being a very long one, but DRS helps a lot to overtake. Arriving to Turn 14 is one of the toughest braking zones; it's very bumpy and difficult to get a reference point.
“Finally, I'd like to mention the massive downhill as you exit the last corner into the main straight. It's something you don't realize when watching on TV, but the car bounces off quite a lot there. All in all, an interesting track where I hope to score some good points, something I haven't been able to do yet this season.”
“I think Shanghai is a nice track and it’s always fantastic to go back to China. I have a lot of fans there, and I always enjoy going to see them. We get people waiting outside the hotel all day, so it’s really amazing to be with them. I’m really looking forward to that. The fans always have a lot of gifts for me and my family, which is amazing. I’ve had good races there, including last year when I finished fifth. I look forward to another good race, and maybe even finishing on the podium.”
“China is a good track to drive. It has a massive long straight, which boosts overtaking. It has some high-speed corners which I very much like, and our car is not bad in those kind of conditions either. The weather can normally play a part in the China race weekend. It’s still the beginning of the year, and we are still looking to see improvements in our performance all the time. I’m looking forward to going to China and meeting all the fans. We have great support over there, and I thank our Chinese fans for that.”
Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer
“The Shanghai International Circuit has quite long straights with average corner speeds on the low side. However, Turns 7, 8 and 13 do exercise the high-speed characteristics of the car. The long duration of the corners puts a lot of energy through the tyres, therefore tyre wear is generally the limiting factor for strategy choice. Whilst in 2015 we generally saw two-stop strategies, experience so far in 2016 shows that teams are pushing to more aggressive strategies due to the freedom of tyre choice. The championship is extremely close, therefore we must keep pushing to remain competitive.”
“It’s not been a smooth start to the season for me, so to be in the Championship position I’m in right now is actually pretty positive. If you can have two bad races and still come away with two podiums, that bodes pretty well. I’ve come back from worse, that’s for sure! People keep asking me if I’m worried – if there’s a downward trend emerging. But I’m feeling the complete opposite. There are no real flaws in our procedure and how we’re working, so I know it’s going to come good. On a personal level too, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been psychologically. There’s very little, if anything at all, that can penetrate that. There’s a long, long way to go, so I’ll just keep working as hard as I have been. Now we go to China for the next battle. It's a track that’s been good to me over the years, with five poles and four wins, so hopefully this race can be the turning point.”
“It’s great to start the season in such a positive way. But I’m just taking things step by step, race by race and targeting a lot more wins to come. It’s important to enjoy times like these. I feel very privileged to drive the best car on the grid for the third year in a row and I intend to make the most of it. I’m going to China now knowing I can fight for the win, which is a great feeling to have. It’s especially good in this instance too, as Shanghai is a track with good memories for me. I took my first pole and win there back in 2012, so I head into this weekend on a massive high. I’m looking forward to the next battle. We haven’t seen the real Ferrari yet, so it could be a very exciting season ahead.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
“After two races, we find ourselves in a strong position. Our car has proven itself to be competitive in a range of conditions once again – but also reliable even at this early stage, which is a tremendous achievement. But there is a long way to go and we have by no means been flawless in every area so far. With Ferrari increasingly breathing down our necks, as we saw in Bahrain, there is zero room for error. Remaining energised is now more important than ever – and we all have plenty to keep us on our toes in that respect. With just two races down and nineteen to go, I wouldn’t say there is momentum on one side or the other. But what is clear – and very exciting for the team and the sport – is that we have two drivers high in confidence who will provide us with plenty of entertainment over the coming months.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“The Shanghai circuit places an entirely different duty on tyres relative to Melbourne and Bahrain. However, we have the same three compounds available, so it will be interesting to see how the competitive order plays out. It’s the first time we’ll see the supersoft compound used at this track, thanks to the new regulations, and that will likely create a more extreme example of what we saw in Bahrain, where the best qualifying tyre is unlikely to be a great race tyre. Every team is bound to want to qualify on the supersoft – but if it grains in the race, we could see cars stopping in the first five laps. There will be plenty of analysis to do on Friday and we could see some interesting calls on qualifying and race strategy. What makes this all the more difficult for the teams is the unpredictability of the conditions. It can be quite warm in Shanghai – but it can also be as cool as Belgium. That variability can make life tricky in terms of both setup and strategy work, so it’s always a challenging weekend. We like going to Shanghai, however. It’s an interesting city and traditionally one of our stronger circuits, with four poles and three wins from the last four races. We look forward to another good battle between our drivers and with Ferrari once again.”
“When I think of the race in Shanghai I always remember the impressive towers on the main straight and the cool paddock buildings by the lake. It’s definitely a circuit with a special character and its own personality. The city of Shanghai is also a cool place to visit and I enjoy trying real Chinese food and exploring such a different culture. I’m always fascinated by big cities and feeling the buzz of the place.
“The track is also famous for the never-ending turn one. It’s a tricky corner because it’s easy to go in too hot, especially during qualifying, and it’s a corner that eats your tyres. In fact, looking after the tyres is always hard work because Turn 13 is another long right-hander that takes even more life out of them. The rest of the lap has a bit of everything from low-speed to high-speed, which makes it challenging to find a balanced set-up.
“My expectations for this weekend are high and, after the disappointment of Bahrain, I hope we can have a clean race in China. There’s good pace in the car and reaching Q3 in Bahrain was proof of that. We had to work very hard with the car set-up to find the sweet spot, but we learned a lot of things that will carry over into this weekend.”
“I’ve always enjoyed going to China. Shanghai is an interesting city to explore and you always get huge support from the fans. They always wait outside our hotel every day just to say hello and give us special gifts.
“They did a great job with the track design in Shanghai because there is a good mix of corners. Turn 1 is what everybody talks about and it’s my favourite part of the lap. It’s such an unusual corner and you have to judge your speed perfectly because you can lose a lot of time if you don’t attack it enough. Then, on the back straight, we always see lots of drag races and it’s a question of who will brake latest going into the hairpin.
“After two disappointing races I want to get my season started properly in Shanghai. The results in Australia and Bahrain could have been so much better, but things just didn’t work out for me. That’s part of racing and I know things will turn around soon. It was a similar situation as the start of last year before my luck started to change. The atmosphere in the team is still upbeat and everybody is pushing to get more performance from the car. We made a good step in Bahrain with the upgrades so we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Vijay Mallya, Team Principal
“It feels as though we’ve yet to unleash our true potential this season. Both the races so far have been heavily compromised, either by our own mistakes or outside circumstances, so I’d like to see what we can achieve with a clean, trouble-free race to the flag. When things go to plan, we know we can compete well inside the top ten and I expect everyone in the team to be pushing hard to reverse our recent fortunes.”
“The Chinese Grand Prix brings back good memories from last season. We had a strong race weekend there, finishing with both cars in the points. I put in a good performance with some nice battles on track. In the end I saw the chequered flag in P10. For this year’s race weekend on the Shanghai International Circuit, I feel confident that we can build up our performance from Bahrain and make another step forward there.”
“My first Formula One race weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit was quite positive last year. We improved the car during the whole weekend and, after a top ten qualifying, I finished the race in eighth. Looking back to the Bahrain Grand Prix about a week ago, I hope that the team was able to sort out the issues I had with the C35. The objective is clearly to be more competitive. I am looking forward to the Chinese Grand Prix as the track characteristics should suit our car.”
Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director
“China is a very different type of circuit to the two that we’ve visited up to now this year, yet the tyre nomination is the same, which underlines the adaptability of our product under a wide range of circumstances. Shanghai is also likely to be quite a cool race, although the nature of the place means that anything is possible, so teams will have to keep an open mind on strategy and carefully correlate the data captured in practice to the eventual race conditions. The three compounds selected have led to a number of different tactical permutations up to now, and we expect an ample variety of strategies once more in China.”
“I’m really excited and I really want to get those first points on the board. Give me a normal race with no puncture and no penalty and I think we can do that! My race [here] in 2014 wasn’t the best, I struggled with the car I had, meaning I finished in 13th position. Certainly I’m hoping for a better result on my second visit.
“The [track] layout is interesting but it is a very wide circuit and there’s so much run-off area, it doesn’t feel as spectacular as it could be. It does have some really good fast corners; the entry to turn one is special in particular, you enter it from the fastest part of the track and by the end of what is a pretty long corner you’re at about 60kph!
“There are two DRS straights so that’s obviously where you look first for overtaking opportunities. The biggest chance is into the first turn as the DRS zone starts very late on the start-finish straight so you can get close to the car in front. That said, I’m always going to go for any opportunity no matter where it presents itself on a lap!
“We know our weaknesses and perhaps Shanghai’s not going to be the friendliest track for us in terms of these but I still think that if we have a good race we can challenge for points. I’m really pumped and excited.”
“I drove [the Shanghai International Circuit] last year in FP1 so I have a reasonable idea about the track. You can get pretty low temperatures there so there’s the challenge of long corners too, which means front tyre graining. It’s almost the exact opposite of Bahrain, which is rear limited.
“There are some very technical corners, like Turn 1 that is pretty unique as it goes pretty much back on itself, on to the back straight, which is another long corner that induces graining on the front left. The straight is very long and there’s DRS so in the race you’ll be looking to be as close as possible to the car ahead to slipstream and make a move, then you’re considering your braking point. It’s one of the longest straights on the calendar and it’s right at the end of the lap. You really need to maximise the potential; you can’t afford to mess it up. The long straight means the tyres are being cooled and the brakes are being cooled; both of which you need to be working at their best when you get into the corner.
“There are two sides to the track, you’ve got the really long straight with heavy braking at the end, then there’s the double DRS zones into the first corner as well so there’s overtaking opportunities there. The middle sector is more about high-speed corners where it’s not so easy to follow the car ahead but the corner itself provides the challenge. There’ll always be the element of looking after the tyres in Shanghai.”
“I think there are a few more parts coming in China and then a few more after that. I’m very much looking forward to trying the first updates to see if they’re working as they should. We’re not a hundred percent with the car yet, so there are still a few things we can do without adding the updates. Again, in China, we have some aggressive tire options, so hopefully they will work as well as they did in Bahrain.
“[Shanghai is] a fun track. The first corner is probably the best known one. It’s a very long, right-hand turn corner. This circuit is very hard on the front tires. There’s also the very long back straight with big braking at the end. It’ll be a good test for us to see, on a very different track layout, if we’re as good as we were in Bahrain.”
“We still need to manage our expectations because our car at the moment has reacted pretty well in Melbourne and in Bahrain, but we need to learn how it will react now in China. I think China will give us a good indication of how the season will be, and also the fact that all the other teams are pushing really hard to develop their car during the season. And as the season advances, it will get more and more competitive, so we need to be ready for that. We can still extract more speed and performance from our car, and China gives us an opportunity to do just that.
“Shanghai is a very front-limited track, which puts a lot of front load into the tires. Turn 1 is very fast and a very long corner - one which is very different to other corners of the season. It’s quite iconic to Shanghai. You arrive full speed, and when you enter into the corner, you have to wait very long into Turn 2. You have Turn 3, which has a very long exit, and it’s quite tricky on traction as you put a lot of lateral on the exit. You go through Turns 4 and 5, which is a very high-speed section, and then into Turn 6 and 7, one of my favourite parts of the track. You really come into Turn 6 with full speed and then change direction into Turn 7. You have to prepare for Turns 8 and 9 because this sequence is very important not to lose the rhythm. Then getting into Turn 10, it’s a small 90-degree corner which exits to a very, very long straight into Turn 11, which is the beginning of a very long corner. You go from very low speed to increasing the speed through the corner, and it’s a part of the circuit where it’s easy to hurt the front tyres. It’s an important part of the circuit when it comes to the car’s race setup. Then one of the longest straights of the season is the back straight, were you’re at maximum speed. You arrive into a very high-braking corner - the hairpin Turn 14. Then the last corner is 90 degrees - a medium-speed corner - which is quite tricky on the exit because you have the curb which you can use quite a lot but, obviously, it has its limits. You’re always trying to maximize the track. It’s quite challenging.”
Guenther Steiner, Technical Director
“One of our goals is to take two cars to the finish, because we haven’t done that one yet. You always want to get better, and the next thing for us to do is take two cars to the finish and, hopefully, both score points.”
“The straight at the Shanghai International Circuit is super long which makes it pretty different compared to other tracks. Coming off that straight, you then have to brake for one of the tightest corners on the calendar - you go from one of the highest speeds to the lowest. Turns 1, 2 and 3 are like one big corner, really long and uphill, and this makes it really tough on the front left tyre, it’s one of the toughest circuits for that which can be interesting.
“As a city, Shanghai is cool, but it’s hard for us to get to because the track is quite far away and the traffic can be pretty bad. We usually get one night to go into the city to eat out and get a view of the skyline.
“I remember one year I was at a traditional Chinese restaurant with my mechanics and everything had spice in it, and I love my spice. The pork ribs were amazing! But then you would get something simple like soup or vegetables and it’s covered in chilli so you really need to like your spicy food to enjoy the local cuisine.”
“I think the Shanghai Circuit is actually a really interesting and technical track. Turn 1 is a unique corner and the fast changes of direction in the middle of the lap are challenging.
“My first race there was in 2014 and we had a wet qualifying which made it challenging as we had very different conditions for the race.
“Shanghai itself is very unique and a really big city. I used to live in Moscow which is big but it doesn’t compare to the size of Shanghai. I think it’s quite an international city, with many things going on there and some nice food. The river that runs through the city is so massive it actually looks like an ocean.
“The fans in China are also very passionate, we have a great group of fans there. I even saw some of them in Australia and they gave me some nice presents. It’s very cool to get this kind of support.”