The Lotus F1 Team is hoping for the best as it cracks open its fortune cookies in Shanghai. The E20 has shown ravenous pace in both qualifying and the race at the opening rounds, but due to a little bad luck the black and gold cars have yet to reach the podium.
Barring incidents, gearbox penalties, and lapses in concentration China should finally show what the team can deliver.
With a three-week break between Malaysia and here the team has been working round-the-clock at Enstone to shave tenths of a second off their car. Technical director James Allison believes the updates for China will bring around two tenths in performance – which could be very useful considering how tight the grid is.
"It may not sound like much, but given how close the grids have been so far this season, that is a big deal. Hopefully, it's a bit more than other people will bring," he said.
"We have to continue improving the lap time of the car and for that we're looking at improvement in all areas. A specific area we've identified for improvement is pit stop times and we are focusing a greater amount of engineering effort in this direction. The areas we are looking at include the wheel nuts and wheel guns. Looking at our opposition it is clear there are gains to be made in this area."
Romain Grosjean’s grid placings have been impressive thus far, but the young Frenchman needs to keep out of trouble in the race.
Kimi Raikkonen has wasted no time getting back on the pace after his three-year sabbatical, and after posting the fastest lap in Malaysia is confident that he can reach the podium providing he has a better starting position than the first two races. The Finn hasn’t been completely comfortable with the E20’s power-steering but it’s getting more to his liking, he says.
Laid out to resemble the Chinese character ‘Shang’ – meaning ‘high’ - the Shanghai International Circuit’s first corner complex is among the trickiest in F1 – a demanding 270 degree right handed corner combination which requires an aggressive flat-out entry, braking through the corner which tightens up towards the end. Then there’s a sudden change of direction, and the bend unwinds itself. Teams, therefore, lean towards oversteer when setting up their cars.
The corners are then fast or medium speed through to Turn 9 where the cars enter a straight running up to a sequence of corners not dissimilar to Turns 1 to 3, but in reverse.
The long back straight heads into a tight hairpin, forcing the drivers to brake from 320kph to 70kph. This offers a great overtaking spot.
A gargantuan main grandstand rises above the track, which is surely the most jaw-dropping in F1. Meanwhile, the layout of the paddock’s hospitality suites are as tricky to understand as an ancient Chinese proverb.
Local start time: 15:00
Number of laps: 56
Circuit length: 5.451km
Race distance: 305.066km
Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2004), 1:32.238
|Pole Position:||Sebastian Vettel||- Red Bull Racing|
|Race:||1)||Lewis Hamilton||- McLaren-Mercedes|
|2)||Sebastian Vettel||- Red Bull Racing|
|3)||Mark Webber||- Red Bull Racing|
|9)||Vitaly Petrov||- Lotus-Renault|
|12)||Nick Heidfeld||- Lotus-Renault|
One of the world’s most exciting cities, Shanghai presents a potent mix of old and new and an undiminished sense of adventure.
The colonial 1930s architecture of the Bund is reminiscent of Liverpool, but the surrounding buildings are in contrast – on one side, ancient Chinese temples, and on the other the illuminated 468-metre-high Oriental Pearl Tower and other modern wonders. Shanghai’s Pudong district is as dynamic as cityscapes get, with more than a hint of Blade Runner.
Pudong’s futuristic rocket-shaped communications needle, the Oriental Pearl Tower features 11 spheres, big and small. At night, its light shows are unforgettable. It’s appeared in several Hollywood movies, including Mission Impossible III and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. You can take a trip up to its ‘Space Module’ observation deck 350 metres up.
In some contrast, the Jade Buddha temple is the city’s most popular shrine and a working monastery. It was founded in 1882 – so by the standards of most temples, it’s contemporary. Light joss sticks and leave them with Buddha, along with your prayers.
Every city in China has a central shine for Daoist worship – a Temple of the Town God. Shanghai’s dates from 1403. The Shanghainese believe that, under the protection of the Town God, life will be peaceful and prosperous.
In search of tranquility? The Yu Yuan Garden translates as the Garden of Contentment. The five-acres features a rockery, ten-thousand flower pavilion, cloisters, tea house and a lotus pool. A local government officer built this place for his parents in the 16th century – beats building an annex over the garage, or dropping by once a year at Christmas.
The original outdoor fake market closed in 2006, and many new ones have sprouted around the city to fill the void. Yatai Xinyang Fashion and Gift Market is probably the biggest. It sells all the usual fake goods one might fancy and lots of comedy Chairman Mao watches. Shopkeepers can spot the inexperienced haggler a mile off, so be ready to come in with an insultingly low figure. Don’t be surprised if they physically drag you into their shop. The key is to walk away and just listen to the price tumble. Just ask any F1 sponsor.
After all that haggling, you’ll be thirsty. The highest bar in the world, on the 97th floor of the world’s tallest hotel, the Grand Hyatt’s Cloud 9 is, in fact, above the clouds and offers a 360 degree vantage point above one of the world’s most exciting, contrasting and bustling cities. You can practically see the curvature of the earth up here. Make this a must-do.
Of course, Shanghai is sensational for Cantonese cooking. But by the end of the weekend you might yearn for a burger. T8 is a minimalist Western-style restaurant with a fab but pricey wine list, and superb food and service. Trademark dishes include Australian Waghyu beef and the ultra-indulgent Chocolate Addiction Platter. If you’re on an expense account you need to head straight here. If not, tread carefully. A mineral water here is 12 Euros!
The Grand Prix party on Sunday night will be at M1NT. Close to the dance floor, it has a jaw-dropping 17-metre long shark tank filled with more than 20 black and white reef-tip sharks. Be careful with your champagne flute, though. We all remember what happened here last year!