Haas F1 will head to Shanghai International Circuit for Round 2 of the 2017 F1 Season. Built in 2004 the 5.451 kilometer circuit is shaped like the Chinese character Shang, meaning “above” or “ascend”, and is recognizable by its two massive media towers overlooking the pit straight with connecting bridges from the giant grandstands to the pit side. Pirelli will offer P Zero White mediums, Yellow softs and Red supersofts for the unique Shanghai circuit, two of which must be used. Turns 1-4 and 11-13 are extremely slow spiral sections with the cars going down as low as 2nd gear, while the back straight of the circuit is the longest in Formula 1 at 1.4-kilometers (0.869 of a mile) with cars reaching speeds over 320kph (200 mph) before a turn 14 hairpin.
With such contrasting elements, the team will need to focus on a balanced downforce setup for the very low and high downforce situations the car will encounter. The long back straight will present the first opportunity of the season for a true battle between the new Ferrari power of the Haas VF17 against the Mercedes powered Force India and Williams which are known straight-line speed in previous years.
Guenther Steiner made news earlier last week with his comments on the new Ferrari power unit:
“With the engine, there is not just one area that is better, it’s the whole package that has improved from last year. It’s now as competitive as a Mercedes engine, if not better. Ferrari won in Australia, but everybody is developing and trying to get better. It’s always going to be a development race. They’ve made a good step, and without that help from Ferrari, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
If Haas are able to not lose time from this straight it’s an indication the VF17 has made a significant step forward from its predecessor, something the team feels it was unable to prove it has done after a team best sixth in qualifying and seventh-place running in Australia that ended in DNFs for both cars.
Romain Grosjean has five career F1 starts in Shanghai, finishing three times in the points with a best sixth-place result in 2012, while Kevin Magnussen has two starts with a top finish of 13th in 2014. Going into China, both drivers feel confident:
“I felt comfortable all weekend long in the car,” Grosjean said. “Qualifying was, of course, a good moment with the new tires and the new cars running on full power with an empty tank, everyone just going for it. It was pretty exciting in that aspect. I was very pleased with how the car was. Even on high fuel in the race the car felt good.
“It’s a shame we did not finish the race, but things are good and we keep our fingers crossed that she’ll be as good in China as she was in Australia.”
Despite his admittedly poor weekend Magnussen also felt positive about the car:
“The car was there, it was performing, it was just on my side I had a bit of a tough weekend. I didn’t get enough track time and there were too many issues with reliability that meant I didn’t have a good weekend. It’s positive, though, that the car is competitive.”
Balance and precise setup will be the key this weekend for Haas in Shanghai as they look to challenge the top of the midfield.