Chinese Grand Prix Preview

Date published: April 14 2011

Andrew Davies is campaigning for the installation of ‘Kamui-Cam’ from the Chinese Grand Prix onwards…

Before we’ve even caught our breath after Malaysia it’s the Chinese GP in Shangai.

The Shang is another Hermann Tilke track possessing the longest back straight in F1 and on which the drivers will be allowed to use their DRS (Drag Reduction System) wing unlike the previous two races where it’s been the main straight. Unlike Sepang, once you’ve been overtaken on the straight there’s no way back past on the following corner in Shanghai unless you really mess up your braking. To make it more difficult, the FIA are only allowing activation halfway down – otherwise the lapping car would probably be past the start/finish line before the overtaken car got to the corner
Last year this was a rain interrupted race which saw Jenson Button make an inspired tyre choice to take the win. This year Mclaren stand a fair old chance from the word go. Hopefully Matt Bishop and the rest of the McLaren press crew have picked up all of Lewis’s toys and placed them carefully back in the pram. After the race in Malaysia he looked like someone had stolen his felt tips and the colouring pad and taken his place in the soft play area . And I’m pretty sure this was before he found out that Fernando Alonso had reported his driving to the stewards.
There have been stories in the press this week that Alonso was summoned to see the stewards after the last race because of the collision where he knocked off his own front wing. During the meeting he supposedly alleged Hamilton was weaving on the lap before and the stewards were duty bound to investigate this.
We need this cleared up because I thought stewards would only look at something if there were an official protest from the team. Did Stefano Domenicali complain or was it Alonso? The Spaniard shouldn’t be implicated if it’s a team choice to make the protest.
Having said that it would be very surprising to find out that the team had complained about something so petty when Hamilton was already down in 7th place. If it was indeed Alonso who whined, then that only adds to the rumours about him asking the Mclaren team to underfuel Hamilton in 2007, threatening to expose the team about Stepneygate and knowing more about Nelson Piquet Junior’s crash than he lets on.
In what could become a very boring season this is exactly what we need – a bit of personal animosity to spice things up. Very handily the same stewards will be on duty in Shanghai, so they will have to be totally consistent in their application of the rules.
What got a lot more of the drivers very hot under the triple layer Nomex last race was the appearance of marbles. But not just any marbles. Different marbles to the marbles they were expecting. Understandably Pirelli boss Paul Hembery was at a loss to know how to play this criticism. He’d been given a brief to have the tyres degrade quickly. The tyres degrade quite quickly by shedding marbles. Now the drivers were having a go at him for producing too many marbles (and different to Barcelona at that). Yes, he could produce a tyre that you would only need to be changed once in a race, but that wasn’t what everyone decided F1 needed…
He should take no notice of them – the loudest ones are all paid more than he is and can learn to cope. Bernie probably looks at it like this: If they trip over them, run wide and then launch themselves across the infield like Vitaly Petrov, then at least that’s more footage for the highlights tape. Yes, you don’t want them in Monaco, but they were already an absolute nightmare in Montreal and led directly to one of Ralf Schumacher’s final meetings with Armco.
If it’s a case of marbles smacking into drivers’ hands then the complainants should take a look at some of the footage of early F1 racers like Sir Sterl who got half a ton of soot poured over them during the course of the grand prix, sat in pools of fuel and were hurled out of their cockpits from time to time. They would certainly have swapped their high risk of death in every race for a smack on the padded glove by a bit of high speed rubber.
It could have been such a marble that got wedged into Michael Schumacher’s DRS unit and ruined his qualifying. He’ll be hoping for a smoother time of it this weekend.
In China we will get a further settling in of the new rules and an indication of which circuits are going to suit which cars.
McLaren might be in with a shout of pole given that they can make their Mercedes grunt pay on the long China back straight. In qualifying the DRS won’t be limited to just half the straight, but all of it. It may well be that the higher configuration of downforce they have on the MP4-26 isn’t quite so good during the race because they’re not allowed to use their DRS unless overtaking. Ferrari, on the other hand, have an overall better car and peg them back in the race. It happened in Malaysia and it would have happened a lot sooner had Fernando not been stranded by a poor start in Australia.
Adrian Newey has admitted that there is no quick short-term fix to the Red Bull team’s KERS problems and so the engineers could end up sending a lot more thinly coded messages via team radio during the race. ‘Agent Vettel, our friend Comrade Boost will not be joining us in the West, revert to Plan B’.
Yes, even team radio is more interesting this year. Let’s just hope the overpriced fruity drinks firm doesn’t run away with it.
The Chinese GP looks like it could be entertaining even if stays dry. One man who is never short of entertainment is Kamui Kobayashi who must have overtaken Mark Webber about four times in Sepang and Michael Schumacher about five. For future races we really do need Kamui Cam. In the old days of Sky’s digital coverage you could pick a driver to follow for the whole race. You could watch the race once and then you could re-watch it in real time from a driver’s point-of-view. Which F1 fan would not want to see a race like the Malaysian GP from Kamui-Cam. Storming it was. Let’s hope for more of the same on Sunday.
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