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Parc Ferme: Chinese F1 Whispers

After a four-year absence, the Formula 1 circus finally returns to China. Shaped to represent the Chinese “shang” glyph, which means “above”, the Shanghai International Circuit is arguably one of the better Hermann Tilke-designed tracks.

Being home to the two most challenging corners on the F1 calendar: Turn 1 and 2. The venue also has the potential to provide the first real upset of the season!

I say two Turns, but in truth they are really one 270 degree continuously decreasing radius corner. Tackling them pre 2022 regulations was never easy. The challenging curve had a voracious appetite for the front left tyre, often ending a driver’s lap before it had started. The compounds are different now and in combination with the cars required ground effect set-up, tried and tested recipes for dealing with this are no longer valid.

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Unpredictable winds of fate

The current reliance on ground effect for most of the downforce could also make these turns a lottery. The length and directional change of the corner almost guarantees the car will handle dramatically different between entry and exit, especially if there is any reasonable wind strength.

Imagine if the gusts of air decided to move around. Even the teams that are on top of their aero will find this challenging. I certainly wouldn’t want to be Mercedes whose control over their ground effect seems variable at the best of times! The possibility of seeing a few cars leave the track here and skank their qualifying lap early is high.

Bumpy road ahead

Discovering a bump on the track at the wrong moment can have a dramatic effect on your downforce. We have seen some heavy shunts over the past couple of years where a car’s grip has suddenly left the building for no visibly apparent reason.

Uneven surfaces are normally the source of this, and the track requires leveling in certain parts. This means new tarmac, together with low grip and no data, makes for a tense weekend on the pit wall, especially for Williams where we can add “no spare chassis” to the jeopardy!

Car lost Sainz?

Injustice seems to have taken up residence in the house of Carlos Sainz. With the news that Fernando Alonso is now firmly ensconced at Aston Martin for 2025, there seems few available seats left on the grid deserving of his talent.

We hoped that Lawrence Stroll’s alarm would finally go off and he realizes that his son being a top tier F1 driver was all a dream. Unfortunately, it stills seems to be on mute which is a shame for Sainz and the Aston Martin F1 team.

The pairing of Fernando and Carlos would provide a realistic chance of winning the F1 Constructors’ Championship. It would also be a huge fillip for the marque and car sales, a point Stroll senior seems to be uncharacteristically myopic about.

carlos sainz jeddah

Psst, Mercedes…

Speculation abounds that Sainz has done a deal with Mercedes. With Sauber and Williams being the only other plausible alternatives, this appears to be a good result.

However, the mantra “Mercedes will sort its performance issues out” seems to be wearing a bit thin these days. We’ve been hearing this for three years now and there seems to be no tangible evidence of anything being “sorted”. So far this season the W15 seems to be between the fourth and fifth fastest car on the grid.

Ironically, this arrangement might suit both parties. Carlos is surely Audi bound once the adults take over at Sauber in 2026 and it looks like Mercedes’s wunderkind, Kimi Antonelli needs more time in the F2 “oven” than Toto Wolff previously thought.

A change in form?

I alluded earlier that the results may be a little different in Shanghai compared to the first three rounds. The reasoning here is this track does not have slow turns leading onto major straights. This kind of combination has worked very well for the RB 20. Their superior suspension is able to carry more momentum in these types of corners and consequently, more speed onto the straight.

With competitor aero programs quickly catching up, the advantage Red Bull have enjoyed here is being eked away. Combined with the Sprint weekend format and a reduction in practice, the door is open for a non-Red Bull front row and win. I fancy McLaren in the Sprint race and Ferrari in the Feature/Grand Prix/Long Race. Delete as you like.