Chinese GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Shanghai International Circuit

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

Chinese GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Shanghai International Circuit

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    The fourth round of the 2014 Formula One season takes place at the Shanghai International Circuit in China.

    Having joined the calendar in 2004, the circuit is enjoyed rather than loved by the drivers, who will be returning to the circuit until at least 2017.

    This year's event presents current world championship leaders Nico Rosberg and Mercedes with a chance to extend their points leads before the European season begins in Barcelona next month.

    As race weekend approaches, we pick out 10 things that you might or might not know about the Chinese Grand Prix and the Shanghai International Circuit itself.

Location of the Shanghai International Circuit

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    The Shanghai International Circuit is located in the district of Jiading, a north-western part of the city.

    The track is about half an hour away from the city centre by car and has its own station on the Shanghai Metro. However, that station was previously closed over the grand-prix weekend due to it not being suited to large crowds.

    More on that later…

Built Upon a Swamp

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    Yet another track designed by Hermann Tilke; the Shanghai International Circuit was built upon reclaimed marshland.

    The $450m facility has retained some of its former life as a swamp, with the paddock and hospitality areas surrounded by water.

    Judging by its colour, however, you’re unlikely to see Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton jumping in for a post-race dip on Sunday.

Symbolic Circuit Layout

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    The circuit layout is apparently shaped like the Chinese character “上”, which translates as “above” or “to ascend.”

    Whether this was targeted or is merely coincidental is dependent on whom you believe, but we can be sure of one thing: We don’t see the resemblance.

    Shanghai International Racing Circuit track map

Cars Reach Braking Point

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    Shanghai is the most demanding circuit of the year in terms of brakes.

    With a number of long straights, including the longest in Formula One, the cars are subject to intense braking distances.

    According to Pirelli’s preview of the race weekend, the tyres will experience forces of up to 4.3g.

It Used to Be Important...

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    Between 2004 and 2008, the Chinese Grand Prix had a late season slot on the Formula One calendar. This meant that the race had the potential to play a significant role in determining the destiny of the title.

    Michael Schumacher’s victory in the 2006 event saw the German draw level on points with Fernando Alonso with two races remaining, while Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton used their wins in 2007 and 2008 respectively as springboards to the title.

    Since becoming an early season race in 2009, however, the event has lost its importance and therefore its intensity, representing a spring Sunday drive rather than a decider at the summit of the sport.

... and More Popular

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    That lack of intensity has seen spectator numbers fall quite dramatically since 260,000 fans attended the inaugural race in 2004.

    The poor atmosphere, with attendance figures now in the region of 120,000, has made the Chinese Grand Prix a rather stale affair.

    But every cloud has a silver lining—that train station is no longer at risk of being overcrowded.

The Two Snails

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    The circuit is defined by the two “snails,” which are located at the beginning and the end of the lap.

    The complex of Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 features a closing radius, making it possible for drivers to ruin their lap before it has barely begun.

    The opening radius of Turns 11 and 13, meanwhile, slings the cars on to the longest straight in F1.

The Longest Straight

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    As already mentioned, Shanghai has the longest straight on the Formula One calendar—but that straight is set to become a whole lot shorter in 2014.

    The extra torque provided by the new turbocharged V6 engines should see cars reach unbelievable speeds before the braking zone for the Turn 14 hairpin.

    Blink and you’ll miss it.  

A Champions' Stomping Ground

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    World champions tend to thrive in Shanghai, with title winners tasting victory in eight of the 10 grands prix in China thus far.

    The only non-champion victors of the race are Rubens Barrichello, who won the inaugural grand prix for Ferrari in 2004, and Nico Rosberg, who as the current leader of the drivers’ championship stands a good chance of joining the elite in 2014.

    Interestingly, though, only three drivers—Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton—have won the title in the same year that they took victory in China.

Successful Drivers

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    The most successful drivers at the Shanghai International Circuit are Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

    Hamilton claimed his first victory at the track in 2008, giving the British driver a six-point lead over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa ahead of that season finale in Brazil, before repeating his success in exciting fashion in 2011.

    Alonso also won in Shanghai in the year of his first title success, 2005, with a comfortable season-ending drive from pole position. The Spaniard took his second win in China last year having started from third on the grid.