China Grand Prix Preview: Shanghai, April 9-12
The Chinese Grand Prix has become well known for providing some exciting races characterized by tire strategy in recent years. With fast corners, a smooth surface, and plenty of overtaking opportunities, the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tires should be well suited to the conditions, which are generally temperate.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“The weather tends to be quite unpredictable in China, although generally we can expect to see temperatures that are significantly cooler than those we experienced in Malaysia. Last year we had reasonably stable weather conditions in China whereas in previous years it has been more up and down – so this throws in a very interesting variable. The front-left tire is the most stressed in Shanghai, while the traction demands of the circuit also give a lot of work to the rear tires. Although we haven’t actually yet seen a very hot Chinese Grand Prix during our time in Formula One, if you look at the weather history there is potential for this to happen as well. This would make things very difficult for the tires – Shanghai is a big, open circuit and if you add in heat, it creates a lot of energy – but we’ve seen from Malaysia that these tires will rise to the challenge. As Shanghai is a large circuit there’s plenty of opportunity for overtaking and big on-track battles. Strategy-wise, we’d normally expect a two-stop race.”
The biggest challenges for the tires:
Around 80% of the lap in China is spent cornering, which means that energy is nearly always going into the tires. The frequent acceleration out of the corners means that the drivers have to guard against wheelspin. Downforce levels run by the teams in China are generally medium, in order to maintain optimal top speeds through both the corners and straights.
Cool weather means that graining can be an issue with both compounds, which accelerates both wear and degradation, especially at the front. Plenty of forces go through the front tires due to the number of high-energy corners – such as turn one, which is almost a full circle – and the heavy braking areas, which causes weight to transfer towards the front of the car.
The P Zero White medium is a low working range compound, while the P Zero Yellow soft is a high working range compound. This pairing ensures the capability to work effectively under a wide range of conditions: one reason why the combination has proved to be so effective.
Throughout the banked Turn 13, with maximum downforce pushing onto the car, the contact patch of the tire can increase significantly compared to when the car is stationary.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds is 1.2-1.4 seconds per lap.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won:
Lewis Hamilton won the race using a two-stopper last year, with a soft-medium-medium strategy. As is the case this year, the race lasted for 56 laps. Hamilton made his first stop on lap 17 and then stopped for more mediums on lap 38. The top 15 all stopped twice, with the longest stint on the medium tire lasting 27 laps and the longest stint on the soft tire being 17 laps.
Expected weather conditions for the race:
Temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees centigrade, partially cloudy, with a 10% possibility of rain on race day. Conditions can vary though.