Understanding the track surface “key” to a great weekend at F1 Chinese GP — Vasseur

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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F1 makes its first trip to Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix since 2019 next weekend. The pandemic that started in early 2020 led to the race getting cancelled from 2020 through to 2023.

It will be the first time for the ground effect cars to tackle the circuit as well. With it being a sprint weekend, teams only have one session to find a good set-up on their cars ahead of sprint qualifying on Friday afternoon. Parc Fermé kicks in for standard qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur discussed it following the Japanese Grand Prix. While it will be important to have a quick car with a good set-up, and to get the tyres in the operating window like always, the Frenchman believes understanding the surface at the Shanghai International Circuit could be the biggest factor in who wins and does well next weekend.

The track underwent maintenance work during F1’s 5-year break from the venue.

“I think it will be a difficult one, but it will be a difficult one for everybody. We will be all in the same situation.

“The biggest question mark for me will be the tarmac because the layout of the track we know, the bumps we don’t know.

“Probably compared to the last event we have also colder conditions and we will see.

“We don’t know the roughness of the tarmac and this will be key for the weekend.”

During the 6 sprint weekends last year, Ferrari tended to come out of the box strong with a good base set-up after their simulation tools worked very well.

Carlos Sainz scored 22 points last year, with Charles Leclerc a point behind. If you look at the unofficial championship for sprints, that put them P3 and P5 respectively.

Vasseur is cautious in making predictions about the first one in 2024, however.

“What is a bit difficult on the format of China is the tyre allocation. In one session you have to choose which compound you will test on Friday. The anticipation on the weekend is crucial.

“It’s true that last year in the sprint races overall it went well, but we still don’t know if it was related to the format or related to the track layout.

“But so far we always had a good start of the weekend and it means we have the capacity to be ready from the first session.”

At Suzuka last weekend, 0.104s covered Sainz, Alonso, Piastri, Hamilton and Leclerc in qualifying. 5 drivers from 4 different teams were represented as the gap between P4 to P8 was incredibly close.

Vasseur wants Ferrari to keep their feet on the ground following a good start to the season. Maximising the package will be absolutely vital in such a close fight, especially over a single lap.

“It’s so tight that I think what is crucial in my business is the humility.

“This weekend you had four teams — if you don’t consider Red Bull in qualifying — four teams in one tenth. It means that you don’t have to consider that what you did one weekend will be true the weekend after.

“We will start from scratch next week. You have to keep this mindset.”

Ferrari trails Red Bull Racing by 21 points in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. A maximum of 59 points will be available during the sprint weekend in Shanghai.