Trackside view

Shanghai, turns 7-8

A late Shanghai Friday morning, sun trying to burst through the smog, stiff breeze stealing up through the corridor formed by the paddock buildings and earth banks to present the cars with a headwind as they exit the fast but decreasing-speed S-section formed by Turns Seven-Eight. 

They exit Seven still carrying massive speed that is grudgingly bled off through the approach to Eight. The transition of the ‘S’ between the two turns makes for a spectacular sight – especially when Nico Rosberg attacks it on new tyres, the suddenness of the Merc’s direction change without any accompanying upset deeply impressive. 

Max Verstappen flies through in a shower of underbody sparks, ride height too low, a raise needed, which will inevitably cost downforce. A brief stop and he’s back out, floor now clear of the track, and he soon has an aggressive flow going through the whole sequence. 

Rio Haryanto is out there in the Manor learning his F1 craft, progress visible, hesitant and step-like at first, quick and neat so you can’t see the joins within a few laps. 

As they pass by, then accelerate briefly prior to the short, hard brake for the tight Turn Nine, the exhaust notes of the four engine types are quite distinct: the crisp, hard-edged blare of a Mercedes, the deeper, throatier bark of a Ferrari, the bland soft whoosh of a Renault, the aggressive but messy Honda with its hard part-throttle transition between compression and spark ignition.