The Oversize Shanghai International Circuit:
A reflection of the oversize country in which it is situated, the Shanghai International Circuit has a massive, futuristic grandstand with two large pontoon-like bridges crossing high above the main straight of the track. The pressroom is in one of these, and the other is for entertaining the high-flying guests, sponsors and V.I.P.s of the Paddock Club.
Whereas most of the Formula 1 paddocks are notable for encouraging people to meet each other, the paddock in China is too voluminous for haphazard meetings, and there is a general sense of coldness.
The Shanghai International Circuit receives mixed reviews from the teams and drivers
The layout is based on the Chinese character Shang, which translates as “high” or “above” and gives Shanghai its name. The 3.35-mile, circuit has 16 corners of varying types and two long straights. Unusually, it is the back straight that is the longer of the two and that provides the greater opportunity for overtaking.
The vast difference in corner types and the long straights make it a difficult circuit at which to set up the cars, and while some drivers like it more than others, most find it interesting and challenging.
“It’s not my favorite Grand Prix of the year, but all the races are just as important as each other with the same points available,” said Robert Kubica of the Renault team. “The track is quite interesting because there are some unusual corners, such as Turn 1, which is almost a full circle and is quite difficult technically.”
The long straights and tight and then wide and fast corners require that the car set up be with a medium downforce level.
“There’s a very long straight, therefore downforce is a compromise,” said James Key, the technical director of the Sauber team. “It’s a fairly high-grip track, which might mean taking a little bit of wing off. Braking stability and traction are very important, and you have those two snail-like corners which are tricky for the drivers.”
The track is also very hard on tires, and Bridgestone has adjusted its tire composition this year to accommodate for the tire graining that happened last year.
Unfortunately, the track is an hour's drive from central Shanghai, a city with a population of more than 20 million people. So although it is one of the most exotic settings in the series, it is not easy to combine the nightlife and other forms of tourism with the race.