Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 April, 2011, 12:00am


Petrolheads heading up to Shanghai should be in for a treat this weekend. The noise and the spectacle of a grand prix is always something a sports fan should try and experience up close at least once, but this weekend there is a bit of added spice.

The fact is the Chinese Grand Prix will be under added scrutiny because no one really knows the nature of the F1 season just yet. What we do know is that last weekend's affair in Malaysia was a much better occasion than the race in Melbourne. This is good news because the Chinese track is very much like its Malaysian counterpart.

The sport's governing body, the FIA, must be breathing a sigh of relief after the two big technical changes finally seemed to work and enhance a race. The drag reduction system - the adjustable rear wing - did provide some overtaking down the main straight and certainly added to the entertainment. It might have gone some way to silencing the naysayers who don't like the artificial element of this technology.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be here to stay.

The Pirelli tyres certainly stepped up to the mark and provided the amount of excitement and unpredictability that most fans desire. The 55 pit stops during the race were more than double the amount we saw last year. Drivers were forced into making so many stops because the performance of the tyre dropped off so significantly and so quickly.

Of course, you can't please everyone. There has been some criticism that it was all too confusing for fans, what with the pit stops and the very variable lap times on a set of tyres. Paul di Resta also complained about being pelted on the helmet and hands by the rubber 'marbles' that were being flicked up off the track by other cars' tyres, but in the end Pirelli has done exactly what has been asked of it.

If you are heading to Shanghai with a weekend pass in your pocket, make sure you don't miss the Friday practice sessions. They promise to be as fascinating as any part of the weekend.

Some of the top teams will need to do a lot of work on that first day to address issues arising from the first two races.

Red Bull might be head and shoulders above the rest at the moment, but they have real problems with the Kers system that takes energy from braking and gives the driver a short boost of power. Mark Webber was without it for the Sepang race and Sebastian Vettel was told to turn it off halfway through. Shanghai's long straights are perfect for using Kers, and it will be fascinating to see tomorrow what progress they've made.

McLaren will be looking to upgrade their exhaust and floor layout in China. The ban on testing between races means that the Friday sessions will be absolutely crucial to see if it works or not. They know that they have to make a performance step because even without Kers Red Bull has won the first two races and will be favourites to repeat the feat in Shanghai.

At the back of the grid, Saturday will be the crunch day in Shanghai.

For Hispania Racing Team, just qualifying will be a bonus. In Australia they weren't allowed to race after failing to get within 107 per cent of the pole position time. In Malaysia both cars were retired for safety reasons. Team boss Colin Kolles said: 'Overall it wasn't a bad day considering it was our first proper race.'

You have to admire his optimism if nothing else.

This is a team that would have been excluded for the whole season had the Bahrain Grand Prix gone ahead as HRT just wasn't ready. Formula One is the top of the motor racing tree, and as such it should place quality above quantity. Let's hope that the vastly experienced designer Geoff Willis can overcome logistical and financial problems, and haul this outfit somewhere nearer respectability.