Shanghai - puzzles in the mysterious East

Shanghai - puzzles in the mysterious East

Postby meteorite » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:49 pm

Set on the edge of the monsoon season, Shanghai has often been a tough track to prepare for. Races results are usually affected by the driver (or team's) choice of tires, fuel loads, downforce settings,engine management settings, aerodynamic settings, and on and on. But on a typical race weekend, the weather will be relatively consistent, and the teams will have their meticulous records from previous years.

But this year in China, none of this will work. The rain to start the weekend was so intense that the medevac helicopters were grounded, and Formula 1 won't run a race without reliable emergency hospital transport on hand. All practice was in one damp session Saturday morning. And with all-new cars this year and effectively no driver experience of running them in the wet, they drivers won't know how their machines will behave until the lights go out - and every or any major setting or minor tweak could be disastrously wrong. But the drivers will have no clue until it's too late.

In case that complication isn't enough, the track dried for the qualifying period. This was good in one way, because racing cars are basically built for fair weather conditions and qualifying was a good reflection of the strengths of the drivers and cars. The front row was Hamilton and Vettel, the latter by one thousandth(!) of a second over Bottas - the equivalent of 2 inches of separation after a circuit of the four-mile track. Bottas' fellow Finn Raikkonen is beside him; as happened in the early stages of last season Ferrari have difficulty setting up his car precisely to his liking. An interesting augury for the next few races is in the lineup of five different makes in five sequential spots that follow before the new Canadian contender Lance Stroll joins his Williams teammate in the last spot of the top ten. Points positions aren't going to come easily for most this season.

A notable absentee is Max Verstappen, whose RedBull had two cylinders go on strike in the first session - watching him overtaking in the predicted wet should add some drama to the race. He's boosted off the final row because of penalies to Jolyon Palmer and Roman Grosjean who ignored yellow flags around an incident in session two.

Rain is predicted but no one can guess whether it will be a passing shower, a major deluge, or both and everything else in between. There is a new starting procedure, never used before, for wet starts. Looks like the likeliest race prediction is the front four will stay out of trouble enough that one will win with the others nearby, but behind chaos may well reign. At any rate the full grid is below, and we shall see how it sorts out tomorrow.

07 09 Apr 2017 Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai

Pos No Driver Car Time
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.678
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.864
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.865
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.140
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:33.033
6 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1:33.507
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:33.580
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:33.706
9 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:33.719
10 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:34.220
11 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.150
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:34.164
13 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:34.372
14 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:35.046
15 36 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber Ferrari
16 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:35.023
17 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:35.433
18 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:35.496
19 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:35.223
20 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:35.279

Note - Grosjean, Palmer penalised five grid places for failing to slow for double waved yellow flags in qualifying
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Re: Shanghai - puzzles in the mysterious East

Postby meteorite » Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:55 pm

2017 FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX - RACE RESULT

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 1:37:36.158 25
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 56 +6.250s 18
3 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 56 +45.192s 15
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 56 +46.035s 12
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 56 +48.076s 10
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 +48.808s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 56 +72.893s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 55 +1 lap 4
9 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 55 +1 lap 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 55 +1 lap 1
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 55 +1 lap 0
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 55 +1 lap 0
13 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault 55 +1 lap 0
14 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 55 +1 lap 0
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 55 +1 lap 0
NC 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 33 DNF 0
NC 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 18 DNF 0
NC 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 17 DNF 0
NC 36 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber Ferrari 3 DNF 0
NC 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 0 DNF 0

OK - it was a dull race but seriously entertaining. How did this paradox come about? Well, among other things, the rain came and did its thing overnight and in the morning, but by the time the cars were scheduled to be moved to the grid it had stopped, though an icy wind was inhibiting water evaporation. Still it was soggy enough everyone decided to start on intermediates except Carlos Sainz who chose slicks. His peers around the grid looked at him as if questioning his mental competence.

Charlie Whiting, the official who executes this task, tossed in a little surprise. Instead of leaving about enough time for a deep breath between the time the starting light sequence completed and they winked out to start the race, they blanked almost as the final light flashed. But no one was caught off guard; Hamilton, Vettel and the lead group strung out as usual, barring a slightly enhanced degree of caution to respect a seriously damp patch under the start-line track bridge. Significantly Sainz got little traction and mainly spun his wheels as the pack left him behind. But he was back by his original place in the order within a few corners and coming hard.

Canadian novice Lance Stroll got challenged by Serge Perez who got over-ambitious and punted the Williams driver into the gravel trap at turn five, forcing a virtual safety car. Having seen the benefit Sainz got from his tires a good chunk of the field opted to pit during the slowdown to change theirs. Antonio Giovannazzi, the substitute driver at Sauber, didn't and ended up aquaplaning into the wall on the front straaight, knocking the corners off the car and littering enough debris about to force a real safety car. This opened a window for Hamilton and the others who had not pitted earlier to dash in, change tires, and get out without losing track position.

So what had been shaping up as a dull race of tire-change chess became interesting. Does Ferrari actually have the legs of Mercedes this season? Vettel after his first-lap time loss spent the rest of the race stalking Hamilton, artistically whittlling his way through the early leaders back to the front. Verstappen, who had jumped from 16th on the grid to a points position in the first lap, continued to make up lost time in a car with manifestly less performance than the leaders yet the final podium position at the end. To do so he had to pass his teammate Daniel Ricciardo whose conservative and calculated tactics were paying off, and Kimi Raikkonen whose faster Ferrari would not handle the way the Finn wanted it. Valterri Bottas suffered an off during the safety car period after getting too aggressive weaving to maintain his tire and brake temperature.

Back in the field, Toro Rosso, Williams, Force India, Renault and Haas were closely and were showing no little dash and courage s they duelled among themselves, advantages shifting with each tire change. Alonso plugged along in positions far higher than his McLaren's performance couls justify until the machine gave up under the strain. In fact for long periods teh television broadasters forgot about the leaders' runs to celebrate teh clashes among the back markers.

The result was an action-filled race that brought out the best in almost every driver, if not always in their cars. There was lots of action, lots of suspense, and lots of talent put on exhibit. This could become a very interesting season.
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