It’s a well-known fact that China is a crucial market for Mercedes and Ferrari, along with all the other top automotive brands – especially those in the prestige sector, where Pirelli is the world leader. So there’s no great mystery as to why the result of the Chinese Grand Prix takes on a significance that goes beyond just the sport itself, as well as providing entertainment for all the local fans who flock to the circuit and also watch the race on television.
Ferrari has won four times in China: in 2004 with Rubens Barrichello when Shanghai made its debut, in 2006 with Michael Schumacher, in 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen, and in 2013 with Fernando Alonso. Now we have the prospect of a Scuderia that looks extremely competitive again after it dominated the last grand prix in Bahrain – at least until Sebastian Vettel made a mistake and Charles Leclerc suffered a technical problem.
The Shanghai circuit consists of a series of straights – which means very high speeds – and a wide variety of corners, all of which add up to a fascinating technical challenge. And it’s exactly in those big corners that Formula 1 finds its maximum performance. Knowing that they can be even braver in the corners this year, the drivers are pushing harder – thanks to higher levels of grip offered by the 2019 tyres, which feature new compounds and constructions. This year’s Pirelli F1 tyres provide more consistency and durability, allowing the driver to focus exclusively on the main task: pushing hard, attacking, braking as late as possible, then getting onto the power as quickly as possible.
In Bahrain last month the hardest tyres in the P Zero range were selected: C1 as the White hard tyre, C2 as the Yellow medium and C3 as the Red soft (the colours seen at every race this year). In China, the selection comes right from the middle of the range: C2, C3, and C4 for the hard, medium, and soft choices respectively.
This different selection could mean that there’s a slight shake up in the competitive order. Another key element will be the weather: in 15 years of racing at Shanghai there have been hot and cold weekends, as well as rain. These cooler temperatures also contribute to a particularly complex set of technical parameters. But one thing is for sure: as has been the case during the last two years as well, all the indications suggest that we will see a very rapid Chinese Grand Prix. The emotion as well as the expectation will be high. Especially if there’s a red car in front…