F1 2012 UBS Chinese Grand Prix

Shanghai International Circuit: The third race of the Formula One season took place at the Jiading District race track under mixed weather conditions with a three day forecast of partial sun/heavy rain/partial sun for the practice, qualifying and race segments. The race is scheduled for 14 laps on the 5.5km circuit making a total race distance of 76.3km and 224 turns. My objectives for the weekend are to qualify 8th or better and finish the race in at least 6th place.

Shanghai’s difficult corners and long straights mean that a car must be perfectly balanced in order to achieve a fast lap time. Even with such a set-up, cars are prone to understeer heavily; this can cause the front tires to become worn at an increased rate. The circuit was designed by German engineer Hermann Tilke and features his trademark signature: a long back straight followed by a hairpin turn. This area can allow current F1 cars to surpass 300 km/h.

Prerace and Qualifying

My teammate Daniel Ricciardo is presently in 13th position and P1 on the team while I am in 2nd place in the Drivers’ Championship but P2 on the team. Given the win in the previous race I should eventually assume the top spot on the team if I can maintain top finishes and decide to stay with this team.

This weekend is the first time I receive notification of the status of the Team Mate Challenge which gives a scorecard type summary of the internal competition for the top spot on the team.

During the practice session I would be performing a scheduled research and development objective of setting three consecutive lap times within the target time of 1:53.213 while using worn tires. The reward for passing this objective is to gain an increase in mechanical grip by 10%. The weather was quite nice with a dry track, and I easily achieved the R&D task by setting a top time of 1:44.506 in those three laps (P1 overall for the session).

In the first qualifying session the rain would come making it a challenge to get around the track in the downpour. Everything learned in the practice session (braking points, DRS and KERS optimal implementation) was lost as tack was very difficult to navigate. I would finish the session with a lap time of 1:52.166, 1.639 off of P1 and placing me all the way down into 16th overall.

In the second qualifying session I managed to improve my lap time to 1:51.934, 1.343 off of P1 but good enough for the final cutoff position of 10th overall allowing me to advance to the shootout.

In the third and final qualifying session I would further improve upon my lap time having grown accustomed to the wet weather conditions, posting a best lap of 1:51.922, but slipping to 2.538 off of P1 in 6th position overall for the start of the race.

Race Strategy

Here I failed to check this panel as in the previous race so I am unsure if it would have provided any additional information that would have given an indication of about what happened at the start of the race (for a detailed synopsis, please refer to the Post Mortem section at the end of this post).

Track Overview

My teammate is starting towards the back in 18th position so I should not have any difficulty in finishing ahead of him this race and improving my standings with the team.

Event Information

The temperature is 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) and there is a 0% chance of rain in the forecast. This is a piece of information that is both critical and misleading as it tells me what to expect but not what the track condition would be at the start of the race (as I would soon find out the hard way).

Research and Development

This panel indicates that I am presently set on a cautious path. This will be further fleshed out during the season, especially if I decide to stay with the team over several races.

Car Setup

These are all the default settings entering the race weekend. There is the ability to tweak these and fine tune several aspects, however I decided to go with what that the AI crew chief/game provided me (failing to notice that I would be starting on the green intermediate tires which are suited for damp conditions).

Race Laps 1-5

From the start I would punch KERS for full effect and drift into the center of the track which allowed me a clear shot towards the front of the pack.

Although the forecast was for 0% rain, the track was damp and dicey to navigate from a standing start even on the green intermediate tires.

A critical moment in the entire race when I pass Michael Schumacher in second and come alongside Fernando Alonso going into the hairpin turn one.

I would be able to successfully complete the pass to take over the top spot.

Although Alonso would momentarily slip past, I would take the lead again. While going down the long back straight I had to setup the manual pit stop orders to change to the yellow option tires (please refer to the Post Mortem section at the end of this post for further details).

I would come into the pits way too fast given the track conditions and experience this off which could have ruined my entire race. With full rules and flags in effect as well as full car damage simulation, I was fortunate to suffer no ill effects from this error.

Everyone would pit at the end of the first lap to rid the cars of the green intermediate tires and change (at least in my case) to the yellow option tire.

The race would tighten up at the start line to begin lap three as it was time to get down to some serious racing.

The change in tires is dramatic as the segment time has improved by almost 19 seconds in a single lap.

On lap four I would post my first fastest lap of the race at 1:46.050. Button would surpass this when he crossed the line behind me with a lap of 1:46.019.

Lap Time Results

Lap 1: 2:29.192 (P1) Pit Entrance Lap
Lap 2: 2:08.036 (P1) Pit Exit Lap
Lap 3: 1:47.820 (P1) DRS Enabled
Lap 4: 1:46.050 (P1)
Lap 5: 1:46.775 (P1) 

Race Laps 6-10

Lewis Hamilton would post a fast lap of 1:45.853 and his consistent running would allow him to close the gap somewhat during lap seven.

I would be no slouch running in first and post a fast lap time of 1:45.321.

Hamilton would maintain pressure and during lap 10 actually challenge me in a few spots for the lead.

Lap Time Results

Lap 6: 1:46.200 (P1)
Lap 7: 1:46.098 (P1)
Lap 8: 1:45.321 (P1)
Lap 9: 1:46.395 (P1)
Lap 10: 1:46.737 (P1) 

Race Laps 11-14

However during the closing laps I would continue to improve various sector times and increase the gap to Hamilton still running in P2.

This is just a gratuitous glamor shot of the STR7 chassis.

During lap 13 I would post the fastest lap of the race at 1:45.089 (the screen shot shows lap 14/14 as the lap result is not reported obviously until the end of the lap).

One final burst of KERS down the back straight just for good measure.

Hamilton and Alonso were falling back and were no longer a threat in the end.

Given the horrific weather during qualifying and the bizarre necessity to pit at the end of lap one just to survive, this result is quite satisfying.

Lap Time Results

Lap 11: 1:45.409 (P1)
Lap 12: 1:45.321 (P1)
Lap 13: 1:45.089 (P1) Fastest Lap of the Race
Lap 14: N/A (Race End)

Race Result

The total race time was 25:50.577 and I finished in the top spot 4.738 seconds ahead of second place Lewis Hamilton.

Drivers’ Championship

This victory would place me firmly in P1 in the championship standings, 14 points ahead of Hamilton.

Constructors’ Championship

The win would also improve Scuderia’s place in the constructors’ standings, 16 back from Red Bull Racing.

Parc Ferme

Yeah bitches!!

Race Recap

I exceeded both prerace objectives by qualifying in sixth place and finishing first. There is a discrepancy here regarding the fastest lap of 1:45.088 in that during the actual race the timing showed the lap as 1:45.089 (this happened last race as well).

Team Mate Challenge Data

The results speak for themselves.

Post Mortem

There were a number of firsts for me in this race, and not all in a good way. First, I had to restart a race for the first time (in this or any previous career effort) due to some unforeseen issues as follows: the race started with everyone on green intermediate tires, and at the end of the very first lap everyone (except me) pitted for yellow option tires. They then proceeded to run me down and blow by me.

This shocked me as I would have expected the robust AI crew chief to immediately direct me to pit at the start of the race (or not start me on greens to begin with). Worse still on a restart when pitting with everyone else the crew changed tires but put greens on again when the AI teams received yellows. I actually had to start the race and once it began issue a manual pit command to change to the option tires.

This was a major pain in the ass as I could not issue the command while waiting for the red lights to go out as the menu functionality is disabled on the controller until the race is underway. I simply do not understand why so much decision making and required input is left to the human player. The AI crew chief should have known the weather was immediately going dry (the AI crew chiefs knew) and order me into the pits on lap one to change to yellows (without my painfully aggravating input).

Another first was the practice and qualifying sessions all took place in heavy rain, while the race (although starting with a damp track and green tires) immediately started to dry so all of the information gained during the first segments of the weekend were lost as braking points, etc. all change from a wet track to a dry track. Once the red lights went out and the race started, it was like the first time on a new track.

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