Further spike in driver Shanghai concerns after shock painted track reveal

Michelle Foster
Shiny black track in Shanghai

Shanghai circuit main straight

Arriving at the Shanghai circuit to discover the track had not been resurfaced, but instead painted, has raised more concerns ahead of the first Chinese GP in five years.

Amidst reports that race organisers had completed work to grind down some bumps ahead of the new generation of ground-effect aerodynamic cars completing their first laps of the circuit, it was suggested that the track had also been resurfaced.

Shanghai track has been painted, not resurfaced

That, though, is wide of the mark.

The track has not been resurfaced, just painted, a new one for McLaren driver Lando Norris.

Asked for his thoughts on the paint job and how it will affect the grip come Friday’s first practice, he told the media: “I think that’s something new, something we don’t think we’ve seen before, so hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen.”

Charles Leclerc agrees that the drivers won’t know until they put in their first laps, but he’s hoping it won’t cause any issues.

“It’s difficult to predict because I think also, it depends a lot on the type of paint they use,” said the Ferrari driver, “and that can cause different issues or have no issues at all.

“I hope it’s the latter that will be the case tomorrow, but for now, it’s very difficult to predict.

“I have only seen pictures, so I haven’t gone around the track yet. I don’t think it’s the same everywhere, which also might not be great. But yeah, before adding further comments, I think we just have to drive and see how it feels.

“Maybe it’s actually completely fine, so we’ll find out tomorrow.”

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But according to Esteban Ocon, there is a type of paint that’s used that can actually increase grip although with rain forecast for this weekend, that could be turned upside down.

“It could be slippery in the wet, could be very high grip, we can’t really tell until we really try. But that’s what I was, you know, speaking to Charles about,” he said.

“A long time ago, in our go-kart days, there was sort of paint put on tracks and it used to put down rubber and keep rubber a lot in corners. So that had a lot of grip. I don’t expect that to be the case. But, you know, it could do a lot of different things.”

But however the surface plays out, Norris is excited for the challenge ahead with Shanghai marking the opening Sprint weekend of the season.

“Just excited,” he said. “Always excited for every weekend, but especially when you haven’t been to a place for a while. For me, I didn’t get a proper experience of it back in 2019. So things have changed. I’m a very different driver to what I was back then.

“So I’m excited to see what it brings and how the whole weekend pans out I think anyway being a Sprint race and having two opportunities to try and nail the set-up for the first qualy and then the set-up for the second qualy.

“I think also there is plenty of opportunity. So I don’t think it’s not going to be exciting for anyone. I think there’s a lot of opportunities on the table, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong at the same time, so excited for all of it.”

Leclerc says adapting quickly will be the key to a good weekend with just one practice hour in the mix at the start of the weekend on Friday.

“As it’s a Sprint weekend, there’s more preparation going into a Sprint and even more so on a track where we haven’t been for five years,” he said.

“However, there are also lots of unknowns, the paint, for example, as well as the track changes because the track changes over time, the bumps are maybe a bit bigger compared to a few years ago when we came here, but this we will only learn, all this new information, tomorrow.

“So adapting quickly will be very important. But there’s been a lot of preparation as is always the case on Sprint weekends.”

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