Chinese Grand Prix 2016 Preview: Start Time, TV Info, Weather, Schedule, Odds

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2016

Chinese Grand Prix 2016 Preview: Start Time, TV Info, Weather, Schedule, Odds

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    JOHANNES EISELE/Getty Images

    Formula One makes its first visit of the year to east Asia this weekend for the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix. It will be the 13th running of the event, first held in 2004, and the last long-distance "flyaway" grand prix until June.

    Nico Rosberg won his first-ever grand prix here at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2012, and he heads into the race with a 17-point lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' championship. The German has won the last five races, but Hamilton is the form man so far as racing in China is concerned.

    The reigning world champion is the most successful driver in Chinese Grand Prix history, with four wins and five pole positions. Normally he'd look like the best bet to take victory in 2016 too, but a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change has left Hamilton with a mountain to climb.

    Fernando Alonso is the only other driver in the field able to boast multiple Shanghai wins, and he'll be back in the cockpit of the McLaren after missing the last race in Bahrain.

    The Spaniard has been provisionally passed fit by the FIA, but he has been told he will need additional medical checks immediately after first practice to assess whether he can take part in the rest of the weekend.

    F1 hasn't produced a lot of good news so far in 2016, but there'll be many happy faces all over the world when qualifying starts on Saturday. After pressure from the teams and fans, the FIA has finally agreed to a switch back to the popular 2015-style qualifying format in time for this Saturday's showdown.

    Read on for a full preview of the race weekend including TV times, current championship standings, a circuit map and guide, tyre and DRS information, weather forecast, odds and session times.

Current Standings

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    Nico Rosberg has a perfect score after two wins from two races. Fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is second in the standings, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo third.

    The top 10 drivers are:

    1Nico Rosberg 50
    2Lewis Hamilton33
    3Daniel Ricciardo 24
    4 Kimi Raikkonen 18
    5Romain Grosjean 18
    6Sebastian Vettel 15
    7Felipe Massa 14
    8Max Verstappen 9
    9Nico Hulkenberg 6
    10 Daniil Kvyat 6

    In the constructors' championship, Mercedes are already charging away at the front. Ferrari are second and Red Bull are third.

    The current standings are:

    3Red Bull30
    6 Toro Rosso 11
    7Force India6

    Data sourced from the official F1 website.

Shanghai International Circuit

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    Will Pittenger / Wikimedia Commons

    The Shanghai International Circuit is situated to the north-west of China's most populous city, and like so many others in the modern age, it was designed by Hermann Tilke.

    Construction began in 2003, and it first hosted a Chinese Grand Prix the following year.

    Overtaking opportunities are provided primarily by Turns 14 and 16, and the advent of DRS has also made Turn 1 an attractive spot for an attack.

    Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4

    A lap begins on the pit straight with a reasonable-length run down to the first corner. The drivers attack this long, beautiful right-hander at speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour, turning in hard and braking to bleed off speed.

    As the corner continues, they get off the brake for a moment, letting the car slow itself all the way to the tightest part, which is taken at less than 100 kilometres an hour. Here, Turn 1 becomes Turn 2, but it's really just one big corner.

    Once past this late apex, the drivers give the throttle a brief squirt before braking again for the even slower, sharp left of Turn 3, then gradually get back on the power through the long, opening exit (Turn 4) and out onto a straight piece of tarmac.

    Turns 5 and 6

    Turn 5 is a right-hand kink taken at full throttle. The drivers drift to the left-hand side of the track at the exit and almost immediately slam on the brakes for the hairpin right of Turn 6. Overtaking into here is possible, so expect to see at least a bit of action at this corner on race day.

    Having dropped down to 80 kilometres an hour, the drivers pick up the throttle at the exit and head out onto a short straight.

    Turns 7 and 8

    The track heads slightly downhill as the cars speed into the long, very fast left-hander of Turn 6. The very best cars will be able to take this corner flat-out on a qualifying lap, but those with less downforce will probably need a brief mid-corner lift.

    The exit leads straight into the entry of Turn 7, a medium-speed right-hander. The drivers hug the inside kerb, compromising their exit slightly in favour of a better entry to the next corner.

    Turns 9 and 10

    As soon as they reach the exit of Turn 8, the drivers brake in preparation for the tight left-hander that is Turn 9; an ideal line will see the car glide through in a constant arc, completing a three-corner sequence that began in Turn 7.

    At the exit, it's back on the power, the driver measuring his input on the throttle through the left-hand kink of Turn 10 before putting his foot to the floor at the exit. A medium-length straight follows.

    Turns 11, 12 and 13

    Overtaking down this straight isn't usually possibleit's not really long enough. At the end, the drivers will be pushing 290 kilometres an hour before hitting the brakes and slowing for the slightly downhill, tight left of Turn 11.

    The track climbs up a touch at the apex, and the drivers carefully feather the throttle as they negotiate the equally tight right-hander of Turn 12.

    The exit of this corner opens out and the drivers wrestle with the temptation to simply floor the throttle, instead gradually bringing it in as they accelerate through the long, slightly banked right-hander of Turn 13.

    The corner seems to go on forever before finally spitting the drivers out onto the long back straight.

    Turns 14, 15 and 16

    As the straight begins, the cars are already travelling at around 250 kilometres an hour, and with the aid of DRS, they can hit around 330 kilometres an hour as they approach the end.

    The marker boards come up on the left and the drivers brake hard, dropping down to just 65 kilometres in a matter of seconds to navigate the very tight, slow hairpin of Turn 14.

    After hopefully hitting the apex, the drivers get back on the power and accelerate through the barely there right of Turn 15 and onto a short straight, then they brake again for the very sharp, tricky Turn 16.

    This medium-speed right requires absolute precision and an aggressive turn-in. The track drops away a little at the exit as the drivers hit the accelerator again and head off towards the finish line and the start of another lap.

    Pit Lane

    The pit-lane entry is straight on from Turn 16, and the exit is on the inside just before Turn 1.

    Slide Image: Creative Commons.

Chinese Grand Prix Tyres and DRS Zones

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    The Shanghai International Circuit is a modern, flowing circuit with a lot of high-speed corners. These place significant strain on the tyres, especially the fronts, making this one of only a handful of true "front-limited" circuits on the current calendar.

    This means tyre strategy and the length of stints will be determined primarily by wear to the front tyres. However, the rears still need to be protected in the handful of heavy acceleration zones.

    Pirelli is supplying the teams with the same three compounds used at the opening two racesthe red-marked supersoft, yellow-marked soft and white-marked medium compounds.

    Information from Pirelli shows there is significant variation in how many of each set the 22 drivers have decided to take. Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, for example, will only have one set of the mediums to play with, having favoured the softer options.

    At the other end of the scale, the two Saubers will each have five sets of mediums.

    DRS Zones

    There will be two DRS zones at the Chinese Grand Prix, each with its own detection point.

    Per the FIA's circuit guide, the first zone's detection point will be in Turn 12. The activation point will be 450 metres after the exit of Turn 13, and the zone will end with braking for the hairpin of Turn 14.

    The second zone will have its detection point just before Turn 16, and the zone will run for most of the length of the pit straight before ending at Turn 1.

Chinese Grand Prix Weather Forecast

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    Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

    Shanghai has a humid subtropic climate, with hot summers and relatively mild winters. Rainfall is common all year round, peaking in the summer months.

    An average April day has daytime highs of around 20 degrees Celsius, and throughout the month, there will usually be around 10 rainy days.

    The forecast for the weekend ahead is for temperatures close to the long-term average. Friday and Sunday look set to be dry, but a passing band of rain could affect qualifying on Saturday.

    BBC Weather will have the latest.


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    Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Lewis Hamilton was initially the favourite to win the Chinese Grand Prix despite team-mate Nico Rosberg winning the opening two rounds. However, a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change has seen Hamilton's odds slip and Rosberg's shorten.

    Sebastian Vettel, a non-starter in Bahrain due to an engine failure, is third-favourite.

    The top 10 favourites are:

    Nico Rosberg Evens
    Lewis Hamilton5-2
    Sebastian Vettel 11-2
    Kimi Raikkonen 16-1
    Daniel Ricciardo 66-1
    Daniil Kvyat 125-1
    Felipe Massa 150-1
    Valtteri Bottas 150-1
    Romain Grosjean 150-1
    Max Verstappen 250-1

    Selected Others

    The Shanghai International Circuit has plenty of run-off, but crashed cars and accident debris can be tough to shift from some part of the track. It's 11-10 we see a safety car period during Sunday's race and evens we don't.

    Stoffel Vandoorne scored McLaren's first points of 2016 at the last race in Bahrain; only Renault, Sauber and Manor remain pointless. It's around 8-1 for either Renault driver to finish in the top 10, while the Saubers and Pascal Wehrlein are close to 16-1.

    And elsewhere, Fernando Alonso is 15-8 to finish in the points on his return to the grid.

    All odds sourced from and correct at the time of publication.

Session Times and TV Times

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    As always, the Chinese Grand Prix weekend will consist of three free practice sessions, qualifying and the race.

    The session times are as follows:

    Practice 1Friday10 a.m.
    Practice 2Friday2 p.m.
    Practice 3Saturday12 p.m.
    QualifyingSaturday3 p.m.
    RaceSunday2 p.m.

    All times given are in Shanghai local time (CST, UTC+8). The official Formula One website has a useful tool on its homepage to convert them to your own time zone.

    TV Times

    In the United Kingdom, live coverage of all sessions will be provided by Sky Sports F1. The programming times are as follows (all times BST):

    SessionDaySession StartSky Start
    Practice 1Friday3 a.m.2:45 a.m.
    Practice 2Friday7 a.m.6:45 a.m.
    Practice 3Saturday5 a.m.4:45 a.m.
    QualifyingSaturday8 a.m.7 a.m.
    RaceSunday7 a.m.5:30 a.m.

    Free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race will be shown on Channel 4.

    In the United States, live coverage is provided by the NBC network on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra (SLE). The times are as follows (all times EDT):

    SessionDaySession StartNBC Start
    Practice 1Thursday10 p.m.10 p.m. (SLE)
    Practice 2Friday2 a.m.2 a.m. (NBCSN)
    Practice 3Saturday12 a.m.12 a.m. (SLE)
    QualifyingSaturday3 a.m.3 a.m. (NBCSN)
    RaceSunday2 a.m.1:30 a.m. (NBCSN)

    Enjoy the weekend!

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