F1 2016 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton’s hopes dented by five-place grid penalty

PUBLISHED: 21:47 15 April 2016 | UPDATED: 18:37 16 April 2016

Lewis Hamilton in Shanghai for the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton in Shanghai for the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton goes in qualifying for the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix knowing he faces a five-place grid penalty.

The 31-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver from Hertfordshire claimed pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit last season.

However, the three-time world champ will incur a five-place grid penalty in China after a gearbox change due to damage sustained in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The best Hamilton can therefore hope for is starting sixth on the grid in Shanghai.

Hamilton was only fourth fastest in second free practice in China on Friday, behind the Ferrari cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel and the Silver Arrows of Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg.

2016 Chinese Grand Prix: Event stats

* Start time: 14:00hrs local / 7:00hrs BST

* Race distance: 56 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/42 laps)

* Safety Car likelihood: 45 per cent. The substantial run-off areas make it relatively easy to remove stranded cars.

* When to press record: Don’t miss the start. Making consistent getaways has proved tougher than expected this year, since Formula 1 reverted to a single clutch, and that will make the drag to Turn One in China more exciting than ever.

* Don’t put the kettle on… when the race reaches laps in the mid-teens and mid-30s. These were the two pitstop windows for the top 10 cars in last year’s race. Sergio Perez was the first three-stopper to finish, in 11th place.

* Race forecast: 22 degrees, but there’s a chance of rain over the weekend. Fifty per cent of Chinese Grands Prix have been rain-affected.

* Tyre choices: Supersoft / Soft / Medium, which are the same as at the opening two races of the season.

After claiming pole in Australia and Bahrain, Hamilton has seen team-mate Rosberg take the chequered flag in the season’s opening two races.

Hamilton had to settle for second and third places respectively in the grands prix after making poor getaways from pole.

2016 Chinese Grand Prix: Event facts

* First Chinese Grand Prix: 2004.

* Slogan: There’s no official slogan for the race, but Shanghai is known as “The Paris of the East”.

* China’s F1 heritage: The Shanghai International Circuit has hosted the Chinese Grand Prix every year since 2004, prior to which the sport didn’t have much of a foothold in China.

The Zhuhai International Circuit, in the south-east of the country, hosted international sportscar races, but it took the construction of a bespoke F1 track to allow the sport to build a fanbase.

Shanghai is an ideal host city; it’s the financial capital of China and it’s the only city in China to have two international airports.

* Smallest winning margin: 0.714s, in 2015. The Mercedes drivers finished 1-2, but Nico Rosberg accused his victorious team-mate Lewis Hamilton of backing him into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel in third place – hence the small winning margin.

Lewis said: “It’s not been a smooth start to the season for me, so to be in the Championship position I’m in right now is actually pretty positive.

“If you can have two bad races and still come away with two podiums, that bodes pretty well.

Did you know?

The Shanghai International Circuit grandstand opposite the pits has seating for 30,000 people.

“I’ve come back from worse, that’s for sure.”

He added: “People keep asking me if I’m worried, if there’s a downward trend emerging. But I’m feeling the complete opposite.

“There are no real flaws in our procedure and how we’re working, so I know it’s going to come good.

“On a personal level too, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been psychologically.

“There’s very little, if anything at all, that can penetrate that. There’s a long, long way to go, so I’ll just keep working as hard as I have been.”

Built on marshland that was deemed unsuitable for housing, the Shanghai International Circuit is one of the most impressive purpose-built Formula 1 facilities in the world.

It cost $450million to construct and the 5.451km / 3.387-mile layout is shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’, which stands for ‘high’ or ‘above’, and the team buildings resemble the ancient Yuyan-Garden in Shanghai.

The track features one very long back straight – the longest of the entire season – and a couple of 270-degree corners that put a lot of energy through the tyres.

Car setup is a delicate compromise between straight-line speed and cornering grip.

As for the Shanghai circuit, Hamilton said: “It’s a track that’s been good to me over the years, with five poles and four wins, so hopefully this race can be the turning point.”

Mercedes rival Rosberg said: “I feel very privileged to drive the best car on the grid for the third year in a row and I intend to make the most of it.”

Qualifying, which reverts to last season’s format, starts at 8am UK time.


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