Formula One hits Shanghai this weekend for the Chinese Grand Prix. Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber looks to build on his fourth place finish two weeks ago in Malaysia, while Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, seeks his first win.
Vettel should be brimming with confidence going into the race as he won the Chinese Grand Prix in 2009 and finished second last year. But Shanghai International Circuit is challenging, featuring two tight corners that curve nearly 270 degrees.
Here's a closer look at the circuit:
The Shanghai International Circuit is a bombastic statement of intent with stupendous grandstands, enormous garages and a paddock you could play elephant polo in.
But strip all of that away, what’s left is an intriguing and challenging circuit that combines highly technical low-speed sections and two very high speed straights. It’s a good venue for overtaking, with or without DRS.
The standout features of the circuit are the two "snails," two very tight corners turning nearly 270 degrees.
The snail covering turns 1-4 has a closing radius – meaning it gets tighter – and the turn 11-12-13 snail has an opening radius. The second snail is arguably more important to get right, as a good exit onto the long back straight can make the difference between gaining and losing a position at the following hairpin.
There’s also the weather. The 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 races included some amount of wet weather. The circuit has proven to bevery exciting in the wet, but last year’s race showed that with the new Pirelli tyres and DRS you can have an exciting race in the dry too.
Mark Webber's Guide to the Shanghai Circuit
The Shanghai International Circuit is quite a long way from the bright lights of the big city. It might only take 25 minutes to make the journey by car – but that’s mostly because everyone in Shanghai seems to drive with their foot glued flat to the floor.
The circuit does have its own station on the Shanghai Metro, but it is closed for the grand prix as it isn’t suitable for use when there’s a big crowd -- much to the amusement of race regulars.
Not that the crowd tends to be that large. Support has dwindled in recent years and now many of the grandstands are closed for the race. But for those who do turn up, the hairpin at turns 14-15 provides a brilliant amphitheater from which to watch motor racing of any description.
Did You Know?
The circuit is built on reclaimed marshland and perched on 40,000+ concrete piles. The marsh is reputed to be nearly 1,000 feet deep in places and therefore not something to be drained with a couple of ditches. Instead, the pilings are between 130-260 feet deep. On top of these is a concrete base and on top of that is 50 feet of polystyrene.
The unusual construction has been a problem in recent years with several sections suffering subsidence, requiring the track to be resurfaced, leading to some interesting changes in grip level.
The paddock actually makes a feature of the swamp by having the team buildings raised on stilts above an ornamental lake – and finding the right bridges between the various structures always takes a couple of days to get used to.