The Shanghai International Circuit has all the hallmarks of a Hermann Tilke-designed racetrack: it’s wide, it has a long straight followed by a hairpin and it has some impressive architecture.
Resembling the Chinese symbol for “high”, Shanghai’s track layout is a demanding mix of straights, turns and hairpins. Over the 5.4km lap, the drivers will negotiate seven left and seven right hand turns, the tightest of which being turn one, entered into flat out but exited in second as the corner squeezes tighter and tighter before a left-hander into turn two. With so many slow and medium speed corners over one lap, the car must have a perfect balance, achieved through an efficient aero package.
Although dominated by corners, Shanghai also has two long straights (the longest being between turns 13 and 14 which stretches to 1,175m) which will see drivers reach speeds of 327km/h and raise the average lap speed to 205km/h. The engineers must, therefore, provide a set-up which also offers high top speeds and low drag levels without compromising the cornering stability. Similar to Istanbul Park, the track at Shanghai measures, on average, between 13 and 15 metres in width (20 metres at turn 13) so offers ample room for overtaking manoeuvres and the perfect setting for a riveting round.
The track has some significant challenges. The drivers turn into Turn 1 at more than 300kph, yet they manage to slow their cars to 85kph by the apex; also in the first sector there’s a challenging 270kph ‘S’ bend, through which the drivers pull more than 3G in different directions, and there are some 5G braking areas. It has a bit of everything.
The Chinese fans haven’t supported their round of the championship as much as some would have hoped, but there’s still a great atmosphere on the grid, in front of the 26,000-seat main grandstand.