Written by SFCMelbourne member, Michele Terminello
After Lewis Hamilton snatched the victory off of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in a dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix, round three of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship returns to the Shanghai International Circuit in China this weekend for the Formula 1 2018 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix. This will be the 16thChinese Grand Prix since 2004 when it first debuted on the Formula One calendar. It also is the sport’s 1000thGrand Prix since its inception in 1950.
A look at the Shanghai International Circuit
The Shanghai International Circuit is a permanent racing circuit located in the Jiading District of Shanghai, People’s Republic of China.
Costing approximately 2.6 billion yuan ($450 million US), the circuit was financed by a joint ventured government-funded company, consisting of the Shanghai Juss Corporation, Shanghai National Property Management Co Ltd, and Shanghai Jia’an Investment and Development Co Ltd. Architectural.
Circuit designers Hermann Tilke and Peter Wahl began visiting and planning the area between April and May 2003 and with a team of 3000 engineers working around the clock, the site was transformed from swampland to international racetrack within 18 months to be ready for its debut on the Formula One calendar in 2004.
The circuit layout was inspired by Chinese character ‘Shang’, the first character in the name of the city Shanghai meaning ‘high’ or ‘above’.
Other symbols represented in its remarkable architecture originate from Chinese history, such as the team buildings which are arranged like pavilions in a lake to resemble the ancient Yuyan-Garden in Shanghai. The main grandstand with 29,000 capacity seating provides spectacular viewing of almost 80 percent of the circuit.
The circuit shows uniqueness with its change of acceleration and deceleration within different winding turns, making high demands on driver and car but also for its high-speed straights. Another one of the main features of the circuit is the ‘Tilke trademark’ long back-straight followed by a hairpin. These offer exciting overtaking opportunities.
The Shanghai International Circuit runs in a clockwise direction and is 5.451km (3.388 miles) in length with 16 corners.
The race distance is 305.066km (189.599 miles) in length with 56 laps in total.
Michael Schumacher holds the fastest lap record at the Shanghai International Circuit set in 2004 with a 1:32.238 in his Ferrari F2004.
Lewis Hamilton holds the record for most victories at the Chinese Grand Prix with five wins to his name.
Mercedes are the most successful constructors at the Chinese Grand Prix with five victories.
The Last Five Winners
2018: Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing. 2017: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1. 2016: Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1. 2015: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1. 2014: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1.
Pirelli, F1’s sole tyre supplier will be bringing with them to Shanghai, the white-marked C2 “Hard”, the yellow-branded C3 “Medium” and the red-marked C4 “Softs” over the race weekend including the green-marked “Intermediate” and blue-marked “Full Wet” tyres in case of rain.
McLaren have gone the most aggressive in their tyre selections for both Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris opting for nine sets of the C4 soft compounds and two sets each of the C2 hard and C3 mediums.
Ferrari along with Williams and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly have selected fewer sets of the C4 softer rubber compared to their rivals with seven available for the weekend.
The Scuderia however have chosen more sets of the medium C3 compounds than arch-rivals Mercedes with Charles Leclerc given five sets of the yellow-marked tyres and Sebastian Vettel four respectively. Leclerc will also have one set of hard tyres to Vettel’s two.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets of the C4 soft rubber each with the former opting for four sets of C3 mediums to Bottas’ three while the Briton will have just one set of C1 hards compared to the Finn’s two.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing who struggled with the mediums in Bahrain, have chosen four sets of the compounds for Pierre Gasly to Max Verstappen’s three.
As in 2018, there will be two DRS Zones for the Chinese Grand Prix weekend. The first detection point is at turn 12 with the activation point 752 metres before turn 14. The second detection point is 35 metres before the final corner with the activation point 98 metres after turn 16 on the main straight.
Pitlane speeds will be 80km/h during Practice, Qualifying and the Race.
ICYMI: Bahrain GP Flashback
Lewis Hamilton clinched an unexpected victory in a drama-filled Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari’s race fell into disaster with Charles Leclerc suffering an engine problem and a spin for Sebastian Vettel.
Pole-sitter Leclerc recovered after a poor run off the line on the opening lap to dominate the race, before an MGU-H failure robbed the Monegasque youngster of engine power and limped his SF90 racer to the chequered flag.
Hamilton’s Silver Arrow rapidly closed in on Leclerc’s struggling Ferrari with ten laps remaining and made the move stick on the rundown to the final corner.
Leclerc’s pace continued to drop off massively as the closing stages of the Grand Prix panned out as he settled for a harsh third but at least claimed the bonus fastest lap point.
Leclerc managed to avoid losing his podium spot to finish ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen as the race ended under the safety car after the two Renault R.S.19’s breaking down with only a couple of laps remaining.
When the 57 lap Bahrain Grand Prix began, Vettel blasted passed his pole sitting Ferrari team-mate Leclerc on the rundown into turn one.
Bottas got by Mercedes team-mate Hamilton off the line as well along with Leclerc who was struggling for grip.
Vettel built a solid 1.4 second gap at the end of lap one.
Leclerc made half a look at Bottas into turn one before poking by the Silver Arrows and moved back into second place exiting the second corner.
Hamilton also flew by Bottas into third after a feisty battle between the two Silver Arrows, the two W10’s ran side by side into turn four but the Briton on the outside got the better run off the corner to make the pass stick.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz had an intense battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the run to turn four, but the latter keeps his nose up the inside and holds onto fifth with the duo colliding and Sainz got a sparking front wing.
Sainz plummeted down the order and was forced to pit for a new front and a fresh set of medium rubber.
Leclerc was going quicker than team-mate Vettel and had the DRS down into turn one with the Monegasque driver pulling to the outside and went around the German for the lead.
Leclerc managed to hold onto the place through the first corner, then kept hold of it on the run to turn four.
On lap ten, Leclerc built a 1.9 second gap to Vettel with Hamilton third, Bottas fourth and Verstappen completing the top five.
Verstappen was the first of the top five to stop on lap 12 for a set of mediums with Bottas following suit a lap later.
Leclerc pitted from the lead on lap 14 with Hamilton while Vettel remained on track and claimed the lead.
Bottas attempted to pass Verstappen’s Red Bull on the run to turn one. The Finn’s first try was unsuccessful but had another go at turn four and got the Dutchman that time round.
Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi clipped Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso into turn 11 forcing the Russian into a spin with the latter managing to recover and continue on.
Vettel stopped a lap later to try and cover Hamilton but emerged behind the Briton in fourth.
On lap 16, Leclerc lead from Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel, Bottas and Verstappen.
Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean was the first casualty to retire due to a damaged floor after a collision with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
On lap 21, Leclerc built a solid six second lead from Hamilton with Vettel third, Bottas fourth and Verstappen rounding out the top five.
Vettel moved into within a second of Hamilton who reported his rears were gone on the radio.
On lap 23, the German used the main straight to get close to Hamilton and moved passed the Mercedes on the run to and around the outside of the W10 into turn four for second.
Hamilton was keeping Vettel honest afterwards with Bottas a further eight seconds back in the other Mercedes.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg quickly caught team-mate Ricciardo who pitted on lap 25 as the former moved up to sixth.
Ricciardo emerged from the pits in 13thplace as the Australian ran a one-stop strategy meanwhile McLaren’s Lando Norris overtook Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen for seventh place on lap 27.
With 27 laps remaining, Leclerc lead from Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Norris, Raikkonen, Gasly and Perez.
Ricciardo passed the sole VF-19 Haas of Kevin Magnussen into 11thas the Australian attempted to make the one stopper work.
On lap 33, Verstappen was the first of the frontrunners to make a second stop window as he put on another set of medium compounds with the Dutchman emerging behind Raikkonen with the former then passing the Finn on his out-lap.
Hamilton stopped on lap 35 for a fresh set of mediums while Vettel came in a lap later also for a set of mediums to cover the Briton.
Leclerc followed suit on lap 37 and came out in-front of Bottas while the fight between Vettel and Hamilton behind re-intensified.
Disaster struck for Vettel as he spun out of third place after being overtaken by Hamilton around the outside of turn four just after the second pitstop window.
Vettel then got his SF90 the right way around again but shortly afterwards his front wing shattered and was forced to pit for a third time.
Vettel then emerged in eighth place with the German then immediately passing Norris’ McLaren for seventh as he charged to recover as much as possible.
Vettel then made short work of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg to get up to fifth place.
With ten laps remaining, disaster struck for Leclerc as he reported a problem with the engine as the Monegasque youngster lost 1.7 seconds and the pace started to fall rapidly.
Hamilton then moved within a second of the struggling Ferrari and passed Leclerc for the lead on the rundown to the final corner on lap 47.
Bottas breezed through Leclerc’s Ferrari for second on the main-straight as the tide turned on Ferrari to a Mercedes one-two.
With two laps remaining, both Renault R.S.19’s of Hulkenberg and Ricciardo went off at turn two due to a suspected electronics issue.
Hamilton crossed the line to win the race under the safety car with Mercedes team-mate Bottas second and Leclerc limping home to complete the top three.
Verstappen finished the race in fourth ahead of Vettel who was fifth and Norris who came home in an impressive sixth for McLaren.
Raikkonen settled for seventh place and in-front of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly who was eighth, Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon who was ninth and Perez rounded out the top ten.
The other Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi ended the race in eleventh place and ahead of Kvyat who took 12thand Magnussen who was 13th.
Racing Point’s Stroll was 14thand in-front of the two Williams FW42’s of George Russell and Robert Kubica who brought up the rear.
It’s been a dream start for the Silver Arrows so far in its quest to become six-time consecutive Driver’s and Constructors Champion as Formula One approaches its 1000th Grand Prix this weekend. Successive one-two finishes for Mercedes in Melbourne and Sakhir give them great confidence heading to Shanghai.
Ferrari will be looking for redemption in China after two races to forget with both SF90’s finishing a distant fourth and fifth at Albert Park due to setup and balance issues all weekend. Young-gun Charles Leclerc fell short of a maiden career victory in Bahrain due to a fault on the car within an injection system control unit, which forced the Monegasque driver to drop from a commanding lead with nine laps to go to settle for third under the safety car.
The team however are confident that the issue has been solved with Leclerc able to run the same power unit in Shanghai. On the other side of the garage, team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered a spin after an intense battle for third at the time with arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. Vettel shortly afterwards lost his front wing in spectacular fashion on the back straight and had to pit once again and emerged in eighth. The German recovered to finish fifth.
Valtteri Bottas returns to Shanghai sitting on top of the Driver’s Championship with 44 points and a one-point advantage over Mercedes team-mate Hamilton who is second on 43 points while Max Verstappen is a further 17 behind the Finn in third on 27 points.
Reigning Constructor’s Champions Mercedes heads to China on top of the standings with 87 points and a 39-point lead over nearest rivals Ferrari who are second on 48 points while Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are a further 56 behind the Silver Arrows in third on 31 points.
Formula 1 2019 World Driver’s Championship Standings – Top 10
Formula 1 2019 World Constructors Championship Standings
Can Mercedes continue their dream winning start? Or will Ferrari bounce back in Formula 1’s 1000th Grand Prix? Can the Honda-powered Red Bull’s get in amongst the action and take a surprise victory in China like former driver Daniel Ricciardo (now at Renault) did last season?
The Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019 weekend kicks off Friday April 12 with Free Practice 1 and 2, Free Practice 3 and Qualifying Saturday April 13 and the 56 lap Chinese Grand Prix Sunday April 14.