Chinese Grand Prix Preview: Shanghai
Pirelli has nominated the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres for China: the first time that this combination makes an appearance this year.
China is well-known for its smooth and sweeping track layout with moderate ambient and track temperatures, which makes it ideal territory for this combination. The flexibility of the medium and soft compounds also mean that several strategies are open to the teams, and in the past the top positions have been decided through the use of extremely wide-ranging race tactics. Rain – a notable feature of the first two races held so far this year – is also not an uncommon occurrence in China, so we could see the appearance of the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tyres once more.
Pirelli’s motorsport director says:
Paul Hembery: “China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action. With all our compounds having got softer this year the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tyres. Shanghai is less aggressive on the tyres than the last round in Malaysia but we would expect to see the majority of competitors go for three stops although some may try two. Last year we had a new winner with Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, who were able to get the most out of their tyres from the very beginning of the weekend in order to spring a surprise. That goes to show exactly what is possible with the correct tyre management at this point in the season.”
The tyre from a circuit point of view:
• China puts plenty of energy through the front tyres in particular, 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 most stressed tyre is the front-left, with China featuring the heaviest braking seen all year.
• The other key corner from a tyre point of view is turn 13: a long right-hander, just before the main straight, which is slightly banked. The loading on the tyres is steadily increased throughout this corner as the cars accelerate out of it.
• Last year, the medium and soft compounds were also chosen for the Chinese Grand Prix. The race winner (Rosberg) adopted a two-stop strategy, starting on the soft and then completing two stints on the medium. The second and third placed finishers (Button and Hamilton) stopped three times: starting on the soft, changing to the soft again, and then completing two final stints on the medium. The fourth-placed driver (Webber) also stopped three times but did just one stint on the softs followed by three on the medium, while the fifth-placed finisher (Vettel) stopped twice on a similar strategy to Rosberg.
Technical tyre notes:
• The medium compound, with its low working range, is expected to have a good warm-up even in low temperatures, guaranteeing better consistency of performance and more contained degradation. The soft tyre, with a higher working range, works in a different way. In cold atmospheric conditions it takes slightly longer to warm up, especially at the front. But it will then ensure stronger grip with more accentuated degradation and a useful working life of around 14 to 16 laps.
• The performance gap between the medium and the soft compound in China is expected to be between 0.5s and 0.6s per lap.
• Throughout the banked Turn 13, with maximum downforce pushing onto the car, the contact patch of the tyre can increase to twice the size that it is while the car is stationary.