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Chinese Grand Prix: Preview - Aston Martin

NEWS STORY
17/04/2024

As F1 returns to China for the first time since 2019, Performance Director Tom McCullough discusses Fernando's new multi-year deal with the team, the test posed by Shanghai International Circuit, and the first Sprint weekend of the season.

Fernando has agreed to extend his stay with us until at least 2026. How big a positive is this?
Tom McCullough: "It's really exciting news that we'll be working alongside Fernando for at least a few more seasons and into the next era of regulations at the start of 2026. Since his arrival, his skill and experience has proven invaluable on our quest to fight at the front. He continues to be one of the fastest drivers on the grid and is very much still at the top of his game. I know I speak for the entire team in saying that we're delighted we'll be continuing on our journey together."

We're heading back to China this weekend for the first time since 2019. What challenges does the Shanghai International Circuit present?
TM: "The facility and the track are both really impressive. It's a technical and atypical circuit, which is fun to tackle from an engineering side. There are a lot of very long duration corners and lots of sequence corners. You have to find a compromise in these sections, such as for Turns One, Two, and Three, to find the fastest way through them overall.

"It provides a real test of your car because you've got a good mix of both low-speed and high-speed corners. It's a front-limiting track and the front left tyre in particular can suffer through the long corners such as at Turn One.

"We're expecting high track evolution in China, owing in part to the fact that not a lot of racing has happened at the circuit over the past few years.

"It is also the first time that the current era ground effect cars have been at this circuit, so we don't have a huge amount of reference data to study.

"We'll be relying a lot on our simulation tools to make sure we've got a good baseline setup at the start of the weekend, but we do already have an understanding of how the current tyres work through long duration corners and also what we had to do back in 2019, and to a certain degree a lot of that carries over to this philosophy of car."

F1 Sprint also returns this weekend. What does the team have to contend with this season with the format?
TM: "Sprint weekends present a unique challenge because you have to do a lot of learning in the first practice session before going straight into competitive running.

"The Sprint regulations have changed this year, with Sprint Shootout now taking place on Friday after Free Practice One, before the Sprint precedes Qualifying on Saturday. From a parc ferm point of view, this season we're allowed to alter the car setup after the Sprint and before the Qualifying session on Saturday, whereas last year adjustments couldn't be made for the rest of the weekend after the Shootout.

"This means that between Sprint Shootout and Sprint everyone will lean a lot on their simulation tools to see whether they've got their understanding of the track and the tyres and the setup right. Then there will be a chance to reset before heading into Qualifying if needed, before parc ferme conditions come into force once more."

We've had a solid start to the season, with both drivers crediting factors such as pit stops and strategy as two reasons behind that. What's your assessment of our performance in that aspect?
TM: "We've had some really strong pit stops this year. Consistency and average pitstop times are what we base our analysis on when studying our performance in the pitlane. We don't pay too much attention if we have a very fast pitstop or if there's a very slow one, because it's a consistency metric that we work hard with the mechanics on. We had excellent pitstops last time in Japan.

"In terms of strategy, we're also doing well. We're in a close fight with McLaren and Mercedes out on track and the margins are incredibly fine, meaning one good pitstop or strategy call can yield extra points. Operationally, if you run your race weekend well then you often earn a better result than those who don't, and we've put a lot of focus onto that."

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