‘This will be terrible’ – Concerns as F1 returns to Shanghai for a sprint weekend

Michelle Foster
Flags of F1, China and the Shanghai International Circuit. F1 start time

Flags of F1, China and the Shanghai International Circuit.

Returning to China for the first time in five years, Christian Danner fears a “very green track” on a sprint weekend could lead to a “terrible” experience.

It, however, could also offer up “one or two surprises”.

‘This will be terrible for the drivers’

This weekend Formula 1 returns to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time since 2019, the year before Covid swept the globe. And it’s doing so with a sprint weekend.

A track that delivers arguably some of the most exciting racing, there are concerns Formula 1 has taken it a bit far by scheduling the year’s first sprint for the Chinese Grand Prix with Max Verstappen saying it is “not the smartest” decision.

Being a sprint weekend, the drivers will have a solitary hour of practice in which to set up the cars at a circuit where none of them ever done a lap in the new generation of ground-effect aerodynamic cars.

Added to that, the track is expected to be very green while for Pirelli this is also a step into the unknown given the five-year absence.

Former F1 driver Danner says it’s going to be “terrible” for the drivers.

Speaking on ‘Sport and Talk from Hangar-7’ for ServusTV, he said: “First and foremost, I expect a very green track that offers hardly any grip. This will be terrible for the drivers until the track finally has grip.

“There is also a relatively large amount of industry in the area surrounding the race track. From the air you not only see the raindrops, but also what is in the clouds. The track will be slippery.

“That will be a huge topic on Friday – how the route is understood. Not just for the drivers, also for the engineers.

“How do I have to tune the car so that tyre A, B or C do what I want them to do? That will be the challenge.

“Especially since we will have a sprint weekend, i.e. with only one free practice session, then the sprint qualifying will begin. One or two surprises are in store.”

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Ferrari’s ‘huge step forward’ with sights set on Red Bull

One of those surprises could be another Ferrari victory with Danner impressed by the Scuderia’s “giant step” forward.

Not only does he believe Ferrari have closed the gap to Red Bull with the SF-24 by improving the car’s tyre wear, but he’s also applauded their race strategies and pit stops.

“Ferrari have taken a giant step,” he said.

“Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had major problems with tyre management in 2023. That was at the top of the list of points that need to be improved at Ferrari for 2024. Just like the race strategy or the pit stops.

“And today I have to say – chapeau! Ferrari managed almost everything, and their race strategy is suddenly solid. And these are the same people who hatched the approach to the race last year.

“The engineering and aerospace capacities have been pooled in Maranello. This deals with topics such as aerodynamic efficiency and mechanics. Now the drivers have exactly what they need from their racing cars.”

Ferrari is the only team aside from Red Bull to have won a Grand Prix since 2022 with Carlos Sainz on the top step of the podium at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix and ahead this year in Australia.

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