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Chinese Grand Prix 2019

Uncertainty clouds Chinese Grand Prix Sprint Weekend

How will the first sprint weekend of the season work out?

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As the Chinese Grand Prix weekend approaches at the Shanghai International Circuit, the Formula 1 community awaits the event amidst concerns regarding track conditions and the complexities of the sprint format.

Chinese Grand Prix 2019
German driver Sebastian Vettel (C) of Ferrari celebrates on the podium after placing third in the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Image Credit: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur expressed his apprehension, labelling the tarmac as his “biggest question mark” for the weekend.

With F1 not having visited the circuit in China since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the absence of recent data on track conditions compounds the uncertainty. Adding to the complexity, tyre manufacturer Pirelli has been unable to send engineers to assess the circuit, which has seen minimal use lately.

Vasseur emphasised the significance of practice sessions in gathering essential data on the track but acknowledged the lack thereof. He highlighted the unfamiliarity with the 18-inch tyres and the colder forecast, further complicating the situation.

“We don’t know the roughness of the tarmac; this will be key for the weekend,” Vasseur remarked, according to

“I think it will be a difficult one, but if you have a difficult one for everybody then we will all be in the same situation,” Vasseur said.

“The biggest question mark for me will be the tarmac because of the layout of the track we know. Most people know that the biggest question mark for me will be the tarmac and probably compared to the last event we have colder conditions.”

Former F1 driver raises further concerns about the Chinese Grand Prix

Echoing Vasseur’s concerns, former F1 driver Christian Danner raised alarms about the challenges posed by a “very green track” during the sprint weekend.

Speaking on ‘Sport and Talk from Hangar-7’ for ServusTV, Danner predicted a “terrible” driver experience due to the lack of grip. He highlighted the additional challenge of industrial surroundings contributing to slippery conditions.

Danner emphasised the importance of understanding the track for both drivers and engineers, particularly in tuning the cars to suit unpredictable conditions. With only one hour of practice before the sprint qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix, the sprint weekend format adds further pressure. Danner predicted that “one or two surprises” are inevitable amidst the uncertainty surrounding the track conditions and the sprint format.

“The track will be slippery,” Danner explained.

“That will be a huge topic on Friday – how the route is understood. Not just for the drivers, also for the engineers.

“How do I have to tune the car so that tyre A, B or C do what I want them to do? That will be the challenge.”

The return of Formula 1 to the Shanghai International Circuit after a five-year hiatus coincides with the introduction of the sprint weekend format. This development has sparked serious discussions among drivers and pundits. Max Verstappen has voiced his concerns over the lack of track familiarity and setup time for the new generation of cars.

As teams and drivers, just like the fans, brace themselves for the challenges ahead, the Chinese Grand Prix weekend promises to be a collective test of adaptability and resilience in the face of shared uncertainty.

Feature Image Credit: Yin Liqin/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images

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