A lap of Shanghai with Fernando Alonso
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso heads into this weekend’s penultimate round of the 2007 Formula One championship season twelve points behind his rookie teammate and the reigning world champion will be going all out to ensure he closes the gap before heading to Brazil for the season finale and here he describes just how he intends to lap the Shanghai International Circuit.
“Shanghai circuit is a very modern track; it’s very wide with a lot of safety escape roads. Gravel traps don’t really exist here; they are mainly asphalt run off areas which increases the safety. It is a very challenging track; especially Turns One, Three and Four. Turns One and Two are pretty high speed, you start in fifth gear, you downshift from seventh to fifth; you brake very gently and have to keep a lot of momentum through the corners.”
“As you are going through here the circuit just gets tighter and slower. You then have to decelerate into Turn Three, which is a blind entry after a very long corner, so you really have to commit into it without knowing where the apex is. It helps a little that they put a post in the middle of the curb which acts as an indicator and means we can be more precise on the entry. However the first sector is pretty difficult and it is important for a good lap, especially if you get to Turn Three and you get it right; the car has to just touch the curb over it. The rest of the track is pretty straight forward, with a lot of heavy braking. You could have a go at someone if you have a clean exit coming out of Turn Four with good traction.”
“You take Five completely flat easily and you brake hard into Six, which is a first gear corner. You downshift from fifth gear and if the car is good and you have good traction in Turn Four you can overtake in Turn Six. Turns Seven and Eight are very high speed. Turn Seven was flat last year in the dry, but even in the wet it was close to being flat. However it is very difficult to get to close to anyone here because of the downforce effect of following the car in front. I think Turn Seven should still be flat even with less grip from the harder Bridgestone Potenza tires.”
“Then we come to Turn Eight, which is a difficult corner. The car is normally very twitchy on the entry and it’s a third gear corner. Turn Nine and Ten are not very difficult. At Turn Nine you downshift from fifth to third gear and the important thing really is to go flat on the throttle once you have turned into the apex and keep it flat into 10 without lifting. It is important not to lift here as between Turns 10 and 11 there is a short straight and the extra speed you gain on the exit of 10 allows you to get into Turn 11 with more top speed.”
“This is a second gear corner and quite tricky, you have to go over the inside corner as much as you can. Turns 12 and 13 are both flat again, if you get them right. Front graining on the tires is a big possibility in Shanghai because of all these high speed corners. There is a very long straight coming out of Turn 13, its 1.5km which makes it quite easy to overtake into Turn 14. This is a first gear corner with very heavy braking.”
“This just leaves you one more corner, Turn 16, a 90 degree corner leading onto the pit straight. It is quite narrow here compared to the rest of the track. It’s a third gear corner where you really have to put the power on the apex and try to get a very clean exit again to gain the maximum speed on the long pit straight.”