First held in 2004, the Chinese Grand Prix has quickly become and established and exciting race. 2017 dramatic charge through the field by Daniel Ricciardo was just the latest in a history of unpredictable racing at the Shanghai International Circuit.
For F1 gamers the race is one of the more enjoyable on the calendar. The circuit provides plenty of opportunities for wheel-to-wheel racing while some of the long, sustained, right-handers provide a challenge to the tyres.
The incredibly long back straight provides a need for high top speed, but the twisting middle sector rewards a responsive and stable setup. How can you best balance these two competing needs to produce a consistent and competitive car for the Chinese Grand Prix?
This part of the setup sets your downforce level. Higher wing angles creates more grip, but at the cost of straight line speed. With China’s mix of sweeping corners and long straights we want a rather balanced setup here. Most of the time you’ll want your front wing lower than the rear, but China is a bit unique here and really suits a 5-4 wing setup.
This creates nice turn-in for the slow corners and enough rear grip on the prolonged ones without causing too much drag down the straights.
This part of the setup is highly dependent on your traction control assist setting as it is all about how power is transferred through the rear wheels and into the tarmac.
Moving the slider to the left unlocks the differential, allowing the rear wheels to rotate at different speeds. Move to the right and they will rotate less freely, all the way to the 100% where they will always be rotating at the same rate.
With a lot of long corners and big traction zones we want to make sure we can get on the power consistently, so having a slightly more unlocked on-throttle differential of 65% will really help with that. Slightly locking up the off-throttle will drag the outside tyre, increasing wear, but will be good for traction so we have gone with 85%.
The suspension geometry section describes how the tyres are aligned with the body of the car. How you set your suspension geometry will have a lot to do with the way the car grips when cornering and how responsive or stable it is when turning.
We have increased the front and rear camber to -2.80 & -1.30 to help give us more grip and be faster through the long right handers. This does produce some wear on the left tyres but not enough to massively impact stint lengths during the race.
Toe has been decreased, with the fronts to 0.08 and the rears to 0.32. This has the effect of improving straight line speed and reducing some responsiveness at turn-in, but the benefit is more stability and we have enough front downforce to handle turn in without moving the toe too much.
The suspension section is all about how stiff the car is. Stiffer springs prevent the car lunging around on changes of direction, braking, and acceleration, but make the car less able to handle bumps and can be very harsh on tyres. Because we are using the geometry to extract some performance we want to use the suspension to take it easy on the rubber.
The front and rear suspension is set to 3-3, this allows us to ride some of China’s harsh kerbs (very helpful for overtaking) and lets the weight move forward and back when braking and accelerating.
The anti-roll bars, which set the lateral stiffness and limit body roll, are set to 5-5. The benefit here is that it is kind on tyres and softer anti-roll bars can provide nice levels of traction through prolonged cornering. Without the quick esses of other circuits or endless chicanes we don’t need these to be particularly harsh.
Ride height is set to 3-3 so that the car is nice and slippery down the straights. During the majority of the race you will be well off the kerbs anyway so it won’t impact your handling too much.
Stopping into the hairpin at the end of the back straight is vital, so we have set the brake pressure to 88% but if you aren’t using the ABS assist this may be too high and lead to lockups. The brake pressure should be as high as you can bear since there are three fairly heavy braking zones around China.
Brake bias has been moved rearward to 54% to help prevent lockups but also to make the front a little more responsive on turn-in.
Tyre pressure at the front has been left at 23.0 psi to retain responsiveness, while the rears have been decreased to 20.7psi on the rear help preserve tyre life as well as improve traction out of corners.
So that’s our Chinese Grand Prix setup. It produces good one-lap pace along with consistent stint performance. If you find tyre wear, especially on the front-left, is too high then start by reducing tyre pressure a notch, and then front camber.
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