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Good for the show, not great for us: drivers concerned about Chinese GP

Formula 1 returns to the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend after a four-year absence

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Several drivers, including Max Verstappen, have voiced concerns over limited running leading up to the Chinese Grand Prix.

F1 last raced at the Shanghai International Circuit in 2019 (Image Credit: REUTERS)

Formula 1 hasn’t raced in China since 2019, when Lewis Hamilton was still the dominant force in the sport and led teammate Valtteri Bottas home to a Mercedes one-two.

Chinese Grands Prix between 2020 and 2023 were either omitted from the calendar or subsequently cancelled as the nation battled the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, all 20 drivers on the grid this year haven’t tackled the Shanghai International Circuit for four years.

This, along with the fact that the racetrack hasn’t been used much in recent years and the colder predicted temperatures, means there is significant uncertainty surrounding the drivability and conditions of the track come race day.

Drivers will need more time than usual to acclimatise to the layout and surface of the circuit, but this is exactly what they won’t be getting. The Chinese Grand Prix will be the first Sprint weekend of 2024, and thus there will only be one hour-long practice sessions to get to grips with the conditions.

Current Championship leader Max Verstappen, who won the most recent Japanese Grand Prix, is not happy about this. He told motorsport.com: “I think it’s not great… When you have been away from a track for quite a while you never know what you’re going to experience.

“It would have been better to have a normal race weekend. We haven’t been there in a while; only one practice session to get into it again. So I think it will be quite interesting”, added Verstappen.

Not a good choice

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. was also asked about his thoughts on the Chinese Grand Prix schedule. He echoed Verstappen’s sentiments, stating: “I think China as a race circuit is a great one. I think it’s one of our favourite ones. It’s just a great racing track.

“But I think it’s not a good choice to put the Sprint after a four or five years’ absence. We also heard there is resurfacing going on.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez is worried about the limited preparation that he and the remaining 19 drivers will have for the 56-lap event. He added: “I just hope there are no issues with the track. Any drain holes, any issues like that will put us out of sync.

“I think for the show, probably, it’s a good thing. But I think from the preparation side it’s going to be definitely one that is going to be really hard”, concluded the Mexican.

The Chinese Grand Prix commences at 08:00 BST (15:00 local time) on Sunday April 21st.

Feature Image Credit: @redbullracing on X

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