‘Istanbul flashback’ concerns raised as Chinese Grand Prix returns to F1

Henry Valantine
The Chinese Grand Prix returns this week.

It's the first Chinese Grand Prix since 2019 this week, but rain on a new surface could potentially lead to scenes like Turkey in 2020.

With the Shanghai International Circuit having recently been resurfaced, concerns have been raised about a potential repeat of the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix if rain falls this weekend.

Istanbul Park had just been resurfaced as Formula 1 returned during the first Covid-affected season, but rainfall made the cars close to undriveable on the new track as a chaotic qualifying session took place – with the slickness of the surface having proven problematic for the teams.

Chinese Grand Prix on a resurfaced circuit could prove problematic in rain

Having been recently resurfaced itself, the Shanghai International Circuit is preparing for the return of Formula 1 for the first time since 2019, after a series of cancellations since the outbreak of the pandemic.

While the drivers and teams are looking forward to heading back to China, not least home hero Zhou Guanyu, who will be racing around the circuit for the first time, there will be the added unpredictability of a Sprint weekend to throw into the mix.

The new track surface will also play its part, and with rain forecast for the weekend, the teams may need to react, as former F1 driver Karun Chandhok explained.

“The track was sort of built on a swamp land, wasn’t it? So you start to get these massive bumps, in the run up to Turn 1 for example, you get that massive bump just as the drivers would turn in,” he told the Sky F1 podcast.

“So it was due a resurface and glad they’ve taken the opportunity to do so. And you just throw another curveball, because they’ll have all their simulation numbers, and what happens is Pirelli send engineers out where they have a machine that basically measures the roughness of the surface, and they’ll feed that information back to the teams.

“They’ll plug that information back to the simulators, and all of that going on. But as we found in Turkey [in 2020], that doesn’t always translate to being exact.

“The simulators are brilliant but, ultimately, that’s not quite real life yet.”

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Martin Brundle, on the same panel as Chandhok, explained that the events in Turkey that season made for a “fascinating” weekend, but if the drivers are able to get enough dry running in, it won’t be long before a racing line emerges.

“That’s about the oils that come up from a new surface and they just sat on top in Istanbul and got mixed up with some water and turned into the equivalent of ice really,” Brundle explained of the conditions that caused the slippery surface in Turkey four years ago.

“The drivers went lap after lap after lap before they could get any grip. It did make for a fascinating Grand Prix, but I don’t know the details of the surface in Shanghai to be honest, or exactly how long it’s been down.

“But there’s no doubt about it, F1 cars do burn a racing line quite quickly into a surface – as long as they get enough dry laps on it.”

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