‘Completely different’ Chinese GP track surface ‘surprised’ F1 teams and Pirelli

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton at the Chinese GP.

The track surface at the Chinese Grand Prix has been a talking point this weekend.

The ‘painted’ Chinese GP track surface came as a surprise to Formula 1 teams and Pirelli upon arrival in Shanghai in the week, with teams having struggled to get to grips with the track early on Friday.

The Shanghai International Circuit had been resurfaced last year, but an additional layer of bitumen had been added on top of the surface, which some drivers compared to a look of having been ‘painted’, which the teams and Pirelli had no advance knowledge of heading into this weekend.

Chinese GP track surface came as surprise to F1 teams and Pirelli

Pirelli’s F1 chief engineer Simone Berra explained that the teams had no knowledge of the updated surface heading to the circuit, with Pirelli usually sending engineers to each circuit prior to an event to gather information of material circuit changes.

The FIA also provide information of circuit changes to the teams, but the additional bitumen layer was not communicated to the teams or Pirelli, who it is understood were unable to send engineers out to Shanghai to garner this information, and the topic was discussed in the team managers’ meeting in Shanghai on Friday morning.

While the grip levels would naturally increase as a racing line was burned into the track, Berra predicted that the grip loss in dry conditions was around 15% until this was the case – with the track surface visibly lighter in the areas over which drivers continually went.

So while it was a shock to begin with, should the track remain dry, it should be an issue that becomes solved with more running.

“No, we didn’t get any indication – we were surprised as well,” Berra told assembled media in Shanghai.

“We noticed it on Wednesday when we are doing the usual track inspection, and it was quite clear that the surface was completely different from the old one.

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“It affected grip level this morning when we did the FP1, it changed the micro and macro reference we measured on Wednesday.

“But bear in mind that this layer is already wearing out on the race line, it’s already quite clear because it’s lighter on the race line, and you can see already the old tarmac and this will continue in the next sessions.

“So by I think tomorrow for the start of the race, the race line will be completely cleaned from this treatment and we will be back to the to the old one.”

When asked particularly if there was an issue with communication with the FIA surrounding this issue, Berra replied: “I think you need to ask the FIA, but it’s not a track change that needs re-homologation, or a check by the FIA, it was done by Chinese circuit management, and they could have done this without informing anybody.

“But I would say it’s not the end of the world in the end because in FP1, let’s say, the grip level improved after a few laps, and then the drivers were able to complete the session.

“I think that, for the future, the FIA will try to work a little bit closer with the circuit to understand this kind of information in advance.”

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