A preview to the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix may have kicked the new season off with a Ferrari win and an intense qualifying fight for pole. But come the race, strategy decided the winner and overtaking was minimal. Now, in round two, will Shanghai produce more overtakes and can Mercedes come out on top?
Melbourne has never truly been an overtaking circuit. But even so, the 2017 season-opener only produced two legitimate overtakes in the race. That’s excluding overtakes made on the first lap, against cars breaking down or moves made on the first lap.
That lack of overtaking also came at a cost for Lewis Hamilton when his early pit stop left him running behind Max Verstappen. A scenario in which Hamilton should previously have been able to cruise into and breeze ahead. Instead, he sat behind the Red Bull in the dirty air with his far fresher tyres and his faster car. Losing time with every lap, and ultimately the lead of the race.
Now, Hamilton running behind Verstappen did not entirely cost him the victory alone. Mercedes bringing Hamilton in early and blocking a possible Ferrari undercut also played its part.
For Ferrari had been considering the undercut as their preferred strategy. As normally, the undercut is the way to win in Melbourne as it can hand the driver track position if they are lapping faster. Instead, Hamilton pitting first meant Vettel stayed out longer and aimed for the overcut – which ultimately paid off when Verstappen hindered Hamilton.
But will China present more overtakes than Australia did?
It certainly did last year, with the race total of overtakes the most of the year at 128. A casual 126 more than Australia…
The long back straight, half with DRS, plays its part in that number. Taking away some of the drag towards the end of the straight and presenting an opportunity at the hairpin. DRS again into the first corner then presents a second opening to an overtake.
But for a move into either the first corner or the penultimate hairpin, the following car will still need to be lapping faster than the one ahead.
The heightened downforce brought by the 2017 rules revamp should also see cars lapping faster than before through the middle sector as they can carry more speed through the long bends.
More speed through turns 12 and 13 should also see drivers able to carry more speed onto the back straight. Perfect for lining up an overtake.
Once again, the race weekend is expected to be tough for McLaren. With the longest straight on the F1 calendar only set to present Honda’s limitations with overall power and energy deployment.
McLaren is at least set to bring upgrades to the car in Shanghai as they push on with their chassis development. But after their Melbourne struggles, reliability may come as an upgrade of its own.
For Formula One fans in the UK wishing to catch the action live, coverage comes via Sky Sports F1 (while all practice sessions will be simulcasted on Sky Sports 1). Channel 4, on the other hand, will cover the weekend via highlights.
Sky Sports F1
07/04 – 02:45 – Practice 1 (also on Sky Sports 1)
07/04 – 06:45 – Practice 2 (also on Sky Sports 1)
08/04 – 04:45 – Practice 3 (also on Sky Sports 1)
08/04 – 07:00 – Qualifying
09/04 – 05:30 – Race
=> 05:30 – Track Parade
=> 06:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 06:30 – Race
=> 09:30 – Paddock Live
05/04 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Preview
06/04 – 08:00 – Driver Press Conference
06/04 – 20:45 – Paddock Uncut
07/04 – 09:00 – Team Press Conference (also on Sky Sports 1)
07/04 – 09:30 – The F1 Show (also on Sky Sports 1)
BBC Radio F1
06/04 – 20:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
07/04 – 02:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
07/04 – 06:55 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 04:55 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/04 – 06:55 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/04 – 06:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Channel 4 F1
08/04 – 13:00 – Qualifying Highlights
09/04 – 14:30 – Race Highlights