The Chinese Grand Prix first appeared on the Formula 1 calendar in 2004 and the Shanghai International Circuit hasn’t changed since. With its pair of distinctive 270 degree corners and a back straight that at one time was the longest in F1, Shanghai presents a lot of challenges for drivers with everything from ERS management, looking after tyres, and of course making overtakes.
There are two DRS zones around this track, but they only present one true overtaking opportunity. Meanwhile, there are plenty of gravel traps waiting to ruin your race should you get a corner wrong. There is some run off, especially at the end of the main straight, but this is one of those tracks that punishes mistakes.
Just from the layout of it, China doesn’t look like a place to launch overtakes, but you can certainly make moves, and in more places that you’d expect.
The obvious place to make a move is at the turn 14 hairpin at the end of the straight. This comes at the end of a DRS zone and the heavy braking zone is the perfect place to pull out of a slipstream and make a move. The inside line is preferable, but if it is covered off, you can execute a switchback by going a bit deeper and undercutting your opponent.
This is not dissimilar to turn 14, but it is harder to pull off moves here. You get a nice run out of turn 3 all the way to 6, at which point you can dive up the inside if you are on fresher tyres. There is less space to get this one wrong though, so unless you are feeling brave it may be wiser to hold off.
This one is more for carving trough traffic after a pit stop or if you took penalties and started at the back. It’s a short run from 10 to 11, but if you have fresh tyres then you can fly out of turn 10 and put a move on up the inside of 11. The quick flick back into turn 12 requires some precision, but if you have a pace advantage then it is a good place to get a move done and save yourself some time around turn 12 & 13.
There are some tricky corners around Shanghai too though. Corners that can kill your tyres and ruin your race if you don’t get them right.
The 270-degree, ever-tightening snail shell of a first corner is extremely challenging on F1 2018. It requires a wide entry and then gentle release of the throttle through the corner as it tightens and tightens. Fortunately, there isn’t too much of a time penalty for getting it wrong, but coming in too hot and using the brakes can really overheat your tyres.
This one follows quickly from the esses of 7 & 8. The trick here is to take 8 a little slower than you would like to and stay tight to the right on exit so that you can brake for 9 and get it in. Turn 9 is slower and tighter than you would think, and if you get it right you can keep the power down through 10 all the way down to the overtaking point of turn 11.
Similar to the first corner, this is another 2-turn, 270-degree corner that takes patience to master. The problem here is that it opens out onto the back straight, creating a serious time penalty if you get it wrong. This corner starts tight and then opens, so the trick is to stay patient on the throttle. If you get on the gas too early, you end up running out onto the kerb and compromising exit speed.
China can be tough on the tyres, especially with the ultrasofts as the qualifying tyre. Turns 1 & 13 really punish the front left, meaning you need to take care around the rest of the lap if you want to be able to push the car out of 13 and onto the straight. For general setup you should favour top speed, but keeping wing angle is important otherwise you'll just slide off in the middle sector. You can see our setup for China here, but remember that your own driving style and use of any assists may mean you need to make some tweaks!