After eight months of racing in five continents, the curtain will finally come down on the 2005 Formula One circus this weekend. The Chinese Grand Prix is the 19th race of a tortuous season that started in Australia back in March. The Shanghai International Circuit is now in its second year in the sport after an impressive debut last year when it wowed fans and teams alike with its facilities. Panasonic Toyota Racing arrives in China guaranteed 4th place in the constructors' championship. Now Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli will look to wrap up Toyota's best ever year in style.
NEW TO ME IS EVERYTHING
Jarno Trulli missed last year's Chinese Grand Prix because he had only just joined Toyota. That means he will be in the unusual situation of learning the track on Friday morning.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16): "The first session on Friday will be slightly strange to be finding my way around a track that everyone knows – but of course I have done that many times before during my first season in the sport. It makes the weekend slightly more interesting than usual but it doesn't affect anything. You just take ten laps to get used to the lines and that's it. From then on the weekend will be like any other. I don't really know anything about the circuit yet. I watched last year's race on the television but you can learn very little from that, just as you can't really understand anything from circuit maps and simulations. The closest I have been to China was when I raced in Macau when I was in F3. So I'm looking forward to my first visit to the country and hoping that we can finish the year on a high."
ME OLD CHINA
Ralf Schumacher, by contrast, has had a chance to race at Shanghai and he enjoyed the experience so he will hope for a good end to 2005.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17): "Last year's Chinese Grand Prix was my race return after three months away, so it was quite a challenging weekend in many respects. I found the Shanghai International Circuit to be really well designed with some unique characteristics, especially the long corners. It's a nice combination of being a technical circuit without being high speed. Turn 1 is a challenging corner coming almost full circle. You need to be committed through here because it is easy to make a mistake. Turn 13 is another very long corner, coming onto the long back straight which leads to arguably the best passing point of the lap at turn 14, a tight first gear corner. The circuit is wide and there are other chances to pass so driving there was good fun last year. Now I am looking forward to returning with Toyota for what promises to be an exciting end to a successful 2005 season."
A QUESTION OF BALANCE
Shanghai's circuit is a mixture of slow twists and long straights so it is a challenge to find a suitable compromise for race set-up.
Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis: "The Shanghai International Circuit is one of the most modern tracks in F1 and like most of the new stadium style circuits, it boasts fantastic facilities and a unique paddock. The track has some interesting characteristics, most notably the complex at turn one with the seemingly never-ending tightening first corner with the tight left-hander immediately following. That is a real challenge for the drivers. Last year the surface of the track was quite smooth, but tracks have a tendency to develop in the early years after their inception, so we will have to see if the track has matured. The slow-speed nature of the circuit means that we will run higher levels of downforce, but as the main overtaking points come on the straights, we have to find the best compromise with wing levels so that we do not lose too much top speed. Then we can aim to end Toyota's most successful season with another great result."