Strange Chinese Grand Prix track surface raises concerns

Strange Chinese Grand Prix track surface raises concerns

F1 drivers and teams have raised concerns over Shanghai International Circuit’s track surface ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix which takes place for the first time since 2019.

This weekend, Formula 1 is making a return to China’s Shanghai International Circuit following a five-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is a lot of uncertainty from the drivers and teams ahead of the round due to its long absence from the calendar.

Preparation for the grand prix will be further complicated by just one practice session before parc ferme conditions are introduced on Friday evening, due to the weekend hosting a Sprint race.

The venue has undergone significant changes over the years —particularly the track surface, and therefore this weekend’s event will be considerably different from the last time F1 cars raced around the 3.4-mile circuit.

During their weekly Thursday track walks, F1 drivers noticed a strange, dark coating on the track surface.

It has been reported that no one was aware of the black “paint” used as a top coat, despite the fact that the FIA and teams were aware that the track had undergone a full resurfacing over a year ago to get ready for this year’s race.

The lack of clarity on resurfacing in the pre-event notes from the FIA led some to believe that the track had been painted as the colour of the asphalt had already faded in certain areas along the racing line.

Ahead of the race weekend, a number of drivers expressed their concerns to the media over how the cars could react on the surface.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen claimed he had not witnessed anything like it since his karting days when measures were put in place to increase traction on old tracks.

“It will be a bit of an unknown,” F1 champ Max Verstappen told Sky Sports. “From the trackside, it looks like they have repainted it, rather than resurfaced it.

“I don’t know what that does to the grip of the track, so that’s something we have to get on top of.”

Other drivers aiming for points will undoubtedly be concerned about the track’s performance if Verstappen, who is currently in command of the championship is. RB’s Daniel Ricciardo spoke the weird paint, saying that performance will be very hard to predict.

“It looks like they’ve painted the track or something,” Ricciardo said. “They’ve done something to the surface.

“I don’t know how the track’s going to change, or if it’s going to be the same or super slippery. But maybe that changes the way the tires behave.”

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc stated that it would be difficult to make predictions for the race and pointed out that the paint may result in a variety of problems or none at all.

“It’s difficult to predict,” admitted Leclerc. “I think also it depends a lot on the type of paint they use, that could cause different issues or have no issues at all – I hope it’s the latter that will be the case.

“But for now, it’s very difficult to predict. I have only seen pictures, I haven’t gone around the track yet. I don’t think it’s the same everywhere, which might not be great. But before adding further comments I think we just have to drive and see how it feels.”

Meanwhile, his teammate Carlos Sainz said that the situation had left the team and drivers a little confused.

“I think there are many unknowns, especially the tarmac looks like it’s been treated in a very particular way,” he said. “I don’t think the FIA or the teams quite understand what has been done here: if it has been a full resurface or just a weird bitumen treatment to the track.

“It certainly looks very particular, and something we haven’t found recently at F1 circuits.”

However, according to, while the track appears to have been painted, it has actually undergone a bitumen surface treatment, which is frequently applied to roads in Asia and the United States.

For the track surface to adhere to the existing circuit surface, bitumen is applied in a fluid state. The reason for using it is that it increases waterproofing, helps get rid of dust, and keeps the track from falling apart.

It is believed that the resurfacing was done last year, and the variations in colour around the track are the result of the treatment wearing off from subsequent track runs.

Given the manner in which the surface was treated, it will probably wear down even more over the Formula 1 race weekend, which could lead to varying degrees of grip over different parts of the track.

Differences in grip brought on by the treatment’s presence or absence, according to Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu, could result in challenges.

“I think it looks a bit inconsistent,” he said. “That inconsistency is what I worry about the most – the inconsistency from entry to mid-corner to exit in each corner. If it’s variable, that’s going to be pretty tricky.

“Then, of course, it’s a sprint weekend. You have only got one hour, probably three runs to sort your car, both low and high fuel. I think it’s going to be a very tough challenge.”

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