Shanghai 'like a new circuit' after grinding of bumps

Circuit atmosphere - Start / finish straight. 10.11.2019. FIA World Endurance Championship, Round 3, Four Hours of Shanghai, Shanghai, China, Sunday. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images
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Formula 1 returns to Shanghai International Circuit next weekend for the first Chinese Grand Prix since 2019, after five years off the calendar due to the COVID pandemic and international travel restrictions.

The last time F1 was here, Mercedes was the dominant force in the sport. The circuit has been largely unused in the interim meaning that it will be 'green' and dirty when the cars do finally take to the track on Friday.

During the extended interval since the last Grand Prix, Formula 1 has reintroduced ground effect dynamics which has a much greater dependence on a smooth surface, with cars easily unsettled by bumps.

And bumps have long been an issue at the venue, which was built on swampland prone to ground movement that can twist and warp the surface of the track over the years.

For that reason, local track organisers have been working with circuit designer Herman Tilke's engineering and architectural company to grid down and reseal areas of particular concern.

It leaves teams with a lack of current data about how the track will perform. The situation is made even more acute by being the first sprint race weekend of 2024, meaning they will have just one hour-long practice session to prepare.

"It's like a new circuit, honestly," Pirelli Formula 1 chief engineer Simone Berra told "We have new cars, new tyres, the 18-inch [rims].

"So not much data," he acknowledged. "Even for the teams it will be a big challenge, not just for us, but for the teams even more probably.

Circuit atmosphere - track painting. 11.04.2019. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Preparation Day. -, EMail: - copy of publication required for printed pictures. Every used picture is fee-liable. © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

"The track was really not used in five years," he continued. "It was just used for one race per year or something like that, so it will be really green and quite dirty - although obviously they will clean the track.

"We need to understand even from tarmac measurement pre-event how it has changed," he explained when it came to how F1's exclusive tyre provider was preparing for the race.

"We need to understand how ageing has gone in the last years," he said. "In the past, it was quite rough in terms of both micro and macro roughness."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has already admitted that the abrasive new surface in parts of the venue could be a concern for his team and could make for a close race than Japan.

The good news is that the recent enforced absence seems to have made Chinese fans even fonder of their F1 event if that were even possible, with sold-out grandstands for next week's race.

Organisers are working on adding even more capacity to the circuit, although some of the planned new grandstands won't be ready in time for this year's race.

This year's event will be the first time that Zhou Guanyu has been able to compete in his home event since he made his debut in Formula 1 with the Alfa Romeo team (now racing under the Sauber name once more) in 2022.

"I’ll be fighting for points at home in China, in Saturday’s Sprint race as well as the race on Sunday," he promised.

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