Shanghai: A lap with Alex Wurz
The city of Shanghai is a bit too hectic for my taste. However the Shanghai International Circuit is a very impressive facility and an interesting challenge for the drivers and engineers.
The lap itself is fairly typical of a Herman Tilke design with a huge range of corners, starting with turns one and two which combine to form what seems like a never-ending right-hander. You arrive in seventh gear at 185mph and you only start to brake when you turn into the corner. You can't brake very hard, so you're braking for a long time as you slow the car down to second gear. To be quick around the whole circuit you need to have a neutral-handling car, which generally results in oversteer through here.
You approach turn three over a little jump downhill. It's a left-hander and can be entered in first or second gear, depending on your gear ratios. At this point the tires are still very stressed from the long first corner, so you're sliding a lot and it's difficult to make a good exit, which is very important because turns four and five are flat-out kinks and are followed by a straight.
Turn six is a hairpin, where the biggest challenge is getting the braking point right because you're arriving at nearly 185mph. You want to clip the apex and get on the power as early as possible to carry as much speed as you can through the fast left-right chicane that follows. This is taken flat in sixth gear and you can really feel the car gripping the road.
At the exit of this chicane you're almost immediately into a double left-hander, turns nine and 10. These are very important corners and a lot can be gained on the entry to the first left, which you take in third gear. The second left is flat, but you have to be quite precise with your line and without traction control it will be trickier this year.
You're then up to sixth gear, before braking at around 90 meters into a tight left-hander. If you set your car up to ride this curb, it will be too soft for the first part of the track, so I think it's better to avoid the curb and lose half a tenth, which will be more than compensated for elsewhere on the lap. This section reminds me of Club at Silverstone because the track goes immediately right and you have to steer the car with the throttle all the way to the exit.
Turn 13 is a long, banked right-hander. It's easy-flat, but you still need to concentrate because it's easy to destroy your tires if you apply too much steering lock. The longest straight on the track follows and you're braking from 200mph for the hairpin. This is the best overtaking point on the lap and it's easy to lose 0.2s by getting your braking wrong, so you need to focus on getting the car into the apex.
Turn 15 is a flat-out kink and suddenly you're into the last corner, turn 16. It's a very interesting corner because you can carry a lot of speed at the apex if you can find the right rhythm. Then you're back on to the start-finish straight to begin another lap.