Vasseur’s Major Worry for F1’s China Comeback

Ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has expressed his primary concern, highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the tarmac conditions and the performance of F1’s 18-inch tires.

The Shanghai International Circuit hasn’t hosted an F1 event since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the current generation of cars untested at the venue.

Compounding the apprehension is the inability of tire manufacturer Pirelli to dispatch engineers to evaluate the track’s condition, given its limited recent usage.

This lack of assessment adds to the challenge for teams, who rely on practice sessions to gather essential data on the circuit, a resource that is currently unavailable.

Moreover, this weekend’s race introduces the inaugural sprint event of the 2024 season, a format that has garnered criticism from figures like Max Verstappen.

Vasseur emphasizes that the entire paddock shares concerns about the tarmac’s condition, especially considering the forecasted colder temperatures compared to usual race conditions.

“I think it will be a difficult one, but if you have a difficult one for everybody then we will all be in the same situation,” Vasseur stated.

“The biggest question mark for me will be the tarmac because the layout of the track we know. Most people know that the biggest question mark for me will be the tarmac and probably compared to the last event we have colder conditions.

“We don’t know the roughness of the tarmac, this will be key for the weekend.”

With only one practice session scheduled before sprint qualifying this weekend, teams face a tight schedule, having just 60 minutes to collect crucial data for both one-lap speed and race setup.

Vasseur acknowledges the heightened pressure this places on teams to quickly find the optimal setup, given the restricted timeframe available.

“What is a bit difficult with the format of China is that with the tyre allocation and one [practice] session, we have to choose [a set-up] which we are bonded to in the car,” Vasseur added.

“Based on Friday, the anticipation on the weekend is crucial.”