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F1 stars voice safety fears as Chinese GP organisers face scrutiny over painted track

Drivers have spoken out about changes made to the Chinese GP track in Shanghai

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Organisers for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix are facing questions from F1 teams and drivers over their decision to ‘paint’ over parts of the Shanghai International Circuit, which could result in dangerous driving conditions.

The last time F1 came to the Chinese city was back in 2019 after the Covid pandemic forced cancellations from the 2020 season onwards. In that particular race, drivers had complained of a bumpy track which resulted in high degradation on their tyres.

It has since undergone a makeover to fix these issues, with bumps largely removed at Turns 1, 3 and 8. But with drivers such as Max Verstappen criticising the race weekend structure, there are further issues which could cause a headache to the drivers.

But a report from Formu1a Uno, claims the road surface has actually not been replaced, with the asphalt on the track remaining the same as it was five years ago.

Images taken by F1 journalists have emerged on social media showing two different shades of colour on the track – with the darker colour relating to an additional layer of paint added as a sealant.

The Italian outlet also reports that teams and drivers were ‘a little surprised’ by this change and on their traditional track walk, which they noticed the visible difference between the old and new surface, commenting that it appeared as if the track had been repainted.

Drivers fear unpredictable surface

It has caused some uncertainty amongst the drivers, with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc admitting it would the unpredictable nature of the track could have an adverse impact on their cars with only one free practice session available to the 20 drivers.

“It’s difficult to predict because I think also, it depends a lot on the type of paint they use, and that could cause different issues or have no issues at all,” Leclerc told select members of the press in China, including Total-Motorsport.com.

Charles Leclerc thinks the track could be difficult to predict. | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

“I hope it’s the latter that will be the case tomorrow, but for now, it’s very difficult to predict. I have only seen pictures as I haven’t gone around the track yet. I don’t think it’s the same everywhere, which also might not be great. I think we just need to drive to see how it feels.”

His comments were echoed by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who fears it could be challenging if rain falls in Shanghai this weekend: “It could be slippery on the wet could be very high grip. We can’t really tell until we we really try but that’s what I was speaking to Charles about.

“A long time ago, in our karting days, it was a sort of paint put on tracks and used to put down rubber and keep rubber a lot in corners that had a lot of grip. I don’t expect that to be the case but you know, it could do a lot of different things.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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