D he hotel rating card speaks for the country and Chinese politics . There are five areas to rate: the western restaurant, the Japanese, the Chinese, the room service, and the breakfast. The customer can put his cross in one of three boxes. The evaluation criteria available are excellent, good and fair. This is how it works in a country where Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are blocked and where a communist regime rules. At least there is a small comment column for critical comments. In my case, it remains empty.
Hotel around 10 kilometers from the track
I will arrive in Shanghai on the Wednesday before the Grand Prix. Immigration at the airport costs me an hour. That's why I'm missing my colleague Michael Schmidt, who landed in front of me with a different machine and was fighting through passport control faster. The drive to the hotel takes an hour and costs 272 Chinese Renminbi. That's about 37 euros. I give the taxi driver 300 renminbi and tell him to hand me over 280. Doesn't quite work. He gets out, unloads my suitcase and says goodbye. Before I can say anything, he dashes away. Well, a tip of four euros is okay. And actually appropriate. Sometimes I'm just a curmudgeon.
Our hotel in Jiading - a little more than ten kilometers from the Shanghai International Circuit - is clean, the rooms are big enough, and the staff is friendly and helpful. So I should tick well on the rating card. It just doesn't always work out with English. It takes patience until the right contact person is at reception. But so be it. The food tastes good, the entertainment program is right. Most of the time we are drawn to the Japanese in our hotel complex. It doesn't hold up to any comparison with our sushi bar at the Japanese GP, but I shouldn't get this pleasure for the first time until later in the year. During our trip to China, I prefer to eat the small Japanese dumplings “Gyoza”. Because they remind me of Maultaschen. Also on my menu: California rolls, chicken teriyaki and salmon. I enjoy a cold beer with it.
Triple check of paddock passes
We are real exotic for the Chinese service. A quick eye contact is enough and she smiles sheepishly. Only at the end of our journey does she dare to follow usa group photo to ask. On the one hand shy, on the other hand charming. After we've filled our stomachs, we usually end up in the somewhat remote hotel bar for a nightcap. Or even two or three. Between us: It sometimes went until three in the morning. But after long and busy days on the track, a relaxed get-together among colleagues must be possible. Simply to clear your head and get other thoughts.
A media shuttle brings us to the track every day. It takes different lengths of time - depending on how our driver is feeling and to what extent he adheres to the applicable traffic regulations. Sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes half an hour. Sometimes it feels as if it throws the anchor 200 meters before the traffic light, sometimes it slams across the intersection when it is red. The rides are relaxed in the morning. Because you look forward to the day on the route. In the evening you want to go home as soon as possible to take a shower. The media convoy is dropped on a desolate parking lot at the gates of the Shanghai International Circuit. It is a huge concrete landscape with poorly processed and undulating asphalt. Before I can go to the racetrack for the first time, I have to pick up my pass for the 2016 Formula 1 season. For me, China is the first race this year.
The red pass is badly needed. Not just to get through the turnstile at the entrance to the paddock. Nowhere else have I been so meticulously checked as in China: in front of the building entrance to the press center; five meters later in front of the elevators; a third time up in the press room itself. But I don't want to weigh everything on the gold scales. If it's for safety reasons, I also like to show my passport ten times.
“First of all, find your way around the paddock,” says Schmidt. It's huge with countless paths that lead from a large forecourt to the individual team pavilions. Kind of like a maze. The tricky thing: the paths are not networked with each other. That means: if you take the wrong one, you first have to go back to the large forecourt. That costs time and in the worst case scenario, you will miss the start of a press round. The teams rent the pavilions for the days on the route. There is a cost of $ 55,000 for four days. The small racing teams in particular have to swallow it up.
Hamilton with epidemic weekend
I like the 5.451-kilometer circuit with its 16 corners. Especially the snail curve at the beginning of the round. She used to be hard to meet on the Playstation. If you turned too quickly, the car carried it out too far and the lap was in the bucket. I also like the middle sector with the long passages. Only the final part with the eternally long straight is a bit boring, I think.
The sport brings a varied weekend. Most fans breathe a sigh of relief: The FIA and Bernie Ecclestone create the new one at the request of the teamsQualifying format and switch back to the 2015 model. A bit of bad luck is involved. Because the new qualifying format could have promised a lot of excitement on Saturday and could at least have mixed up the starting grid. Because after a good three minutes, Pascal Wehrlein fires his Manor into the guardrails on the home straight. After that, some pilots would have had to set times within a few minutes in order not to tumble out of Q1. That would have promised hectic. And mistakes happen in the hustle and bustle. As a reminder: After seven minutes after the 2016 qualifying format, the hot phase began, in which a pilot was eliminated every 90 seconds.
Instead of flying laps on the last groove, the track remains empty for 22 minutes. Which is not due to the new, old qualification format, but to the caution of the race management. She sends the marshals out to dry the puddle behind the bump on the start-finish line. Colleague Schmidt is terribly upset in the press center. I agree with him: The 22 best racing drivers in the world have to deal with a damp patch on the asphalt. Even if they pass this point on slicks at over 300 km /h. Then they just have to slow down and adjust the pace to the conditions.
Lewis Hamilton is experiencing an epidemic weekend in China. Even before the first training session, it is clear that the world champion will be downgraded by five places. Because Mercedes has to change the gearbox in the car with starting number 44. It is a consequence of the collision with Valtteri Bottas from the previous race in Bahrain. In qualifying, the MGU-H then goes flat. Hamilton is powerless and starts the third GP of the year from last place. There is no end to this. In the start frenzy, he shaves off the front wing of Felipe Nasr's clean through no fault of his own. The world champion fights with a battered car (underbody, crooked steering), stops five times and ends up in seventh place.
Team-mate Rosberg, on the other hand, has a quiet afternoon. Although he slipped behind Daniel Ricciardo at the start, the problem was resolved on the third lap. The left rear tire on the Red Bull bursts on the straight. Still, the Australian finished fourth. Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat come on the podium. Vettel despite a collision with Kimi Räikkönen in the first corner. The Heppenheimer blames the accident on Kvyat, who slowed past both Ferraris late but cleanly in the first corner. For the first time since Hungary in 2015, Kvyat achieved a podium finish. The result should be of short-term benefit. Two weeks later, Red Bull demoted him back to Toro Rosso and promoted Max Verstappen instead.
On our return trip, we were literally bombarded with cell phones at the airport. The Chinese want to sell them to us cheaply. They look real, but they're probably just fakes. I renounce. Anyway, colleague Schmidt. He can do as little with cell phones asCat allergy sufferers with cats.
In the gallery you can find some personal impressions of the auto motor und sport reporters of the events behind the scenes.