The colossal Shanghai International Circuit is Formula 1 supersized: huge paddock; towering grandstands and straights that disappear over the horizon. Even after a decade and more of racing in China, it’s still a marvel to behold.
Built on marshland in 2003, the track sits on more than 40,000 stabilising concrete pillars and its infrastructure is bigger and bolder than at any other circuit on the Formula 1 calendar.
Located around 40km from the centre of the world’s most populous city, the Shanghai International Circuit has all sorts of interesting features. The long pit straight and the even longer back straight dominate the first and final sectors and, with slow corners before and after, ensure the Chinese Grand Prix is never short of overtaking opportunities – but the race isn’t a simple, low-drag slipstreaming exercise.
The two ‘snail’ sections – corner complexes that go beyond 180° – and a tight hairpin put a premium on good traction and, combined with the high-speed turns of the middle sector, demand some concessions to downforce. There are also several heavy braking zones. While not a problem for the brakes themselves, the unevenness of the braking zones (a legacy of building on marshland) tends to test out a car’s damping capabilities and force driver errors. The tarmac is also very abrasive with the life of tyres – particularly the softest compounds – sometimes measured in corners rather than laps.
Fernando is a former Chinese Grand Prix winner, taking the chequered flag in 2005 and 2013. McLaren has three wins to its name at this circuit.
How McLaren defined six days in the history of the Chinese GP
September 26 2004
The inaugural Chinese Grand Prix ends with the top three separated by just 1.4s. Kimi Raikkonen comes home third for McLaren, after sitting on the gearbox of Jenson Button from the second round of pitstops.
October 16 2005
Kimi finishes second to newly crowned world champion Fernando Alonso. He sets the fastest lap of the race, but loses a strategic advantage when the Safety Car is deployed after Juan Pablo Montoya dislodges a piece of metal grating at Turn 10.
October 7 2007
Lewis Hamilton does everything right early on. He leads the race from pole position, but as he pits on lap 31 he runs wide at the pitlane entry and beaches his car in the gravel. Raikkonen wins for Ferrari, ahead of Fernando in the second MP4-22.
October 19 2008
Lewis converts pole position into the team’s first victory in China. His fastest lap of the race emphasises his dominance and, as a result of this win, all he needs is fifth place in Interlagos to clinch the world championship.
April 18 2010
A classic Jenson Button victory. Light rain falls at the start of the race and Jenson stays on slicks while his rivals pit for intermediates. When the rain stops and the track dries out, Jenson moves into the lead and is never headed. Lewis finishes second to give Vodafone McLaren Mercedes a one-two finish.
17 April 2011
A three-stop strategy and a fresh set of tyres at the end of the race allows Lewis to rapidly close on Sebastian Vettel, who he audaciously passes for the lead with four laps left. Jenson comes home fourth to maintain his 100 percent finishing record in China.