On New Year’s Day it is very common to see people out for a New Year’s Day run. In Shanghai, for the 6th consecutive year, January 1st marks the event ‘Run the Track’. Over 20,000 runners descended on the Shanghai SAIC Circuit to experience the asphalt like never before. By running the race track they got to replicate what F1 teams will always do on the first day of the Grand Prix weekend. So, other than a test of fitness, what can be gained from running the race circuit and why do fans take to the track themselves to do so?
Motorlat.com had exclusive behind the scenes access to the latest running of this event – Run the Track – whilst also taking part in the event itself.
In the first instance, running a 5km track is not much of a challenge for an F1 racer seeing how during a race, drivers can experience lateral G-forces which are so intense that it feels like an extra 25kg of weight on a driver’s neck. Another reason F1 drivers have such strong necks is due to the fact that under race conditions their helmet, while enduring the G-force, feels like it weighs 7kg. You do not have to look far on YouTube to find George Russell’s viral video of his intense fitness routine.
So, why run around the track in the first place?
Drivers run around the circuit for the same reason that the 20,000 plus participants chose to run around the Shanghai circuit on New Year’s Day – to get a feel for the gradient and the windspeed plus the surface itself.
To fire up the capacity crowd beforehand a choreographed group of male and female dancers performed a break-dancing routine whilst holding chequered flags as the sounds of engines were played over the speaker in between pre-recorded bursts of Swedish House Mafia. Next, came the Chinese National Anthem which was sung by the participants as well as the spectators watching on from the main grandstand On the grid itself were the field of runners adorned in traditional running gear whilst many also ran with the National flag of their favourite racer. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were particularly well represented on the grid.
Once the claxon sounded the 20,000 runners were off and this was when the beauty of the Shanghai Circuit could be experienced first-hand. At Turn 1 when the circuit takes its first turn into an 'S' formation, the slope can be clearly seen and experienced much clearer than it is by watching the race on television. First the slope to the right and then the left – no wonder this section of track promotes so many overtakes on race day. Then, later in the lap having navigated the Anting Corner, the track approaches its infamous speed trap but does so with a steep gradient leaning into the right hander and then straightening out. Whilst running this section you then encounter the head wind and can truly empathise with the force that must be exerted on the nose of an F1 car during a race weekend…not to mention the challenge of maneuvering the banking on the approach.
To further cement the ‘F1 element’ of this event, around the track, free cups of Red Bull were distributed at the ‘Refreshment station’ along with banana and water…if you were not wanting to be given wings. After the race itself, upon receiving your medal, was an information booth selling tickets for the 2020 Shanghai edition of the F1 race calendar. The publicity was clearly working with many fans purchasing tickets and being given free F1 post cards in return.
Formula 1 only visits a circuit once a year but these circuits do have opportunities to allow members of the public to run on them (or cycle in the case of Yas Marina Abu Dhabi). It is certainly an experience worth taking and gets you one step closer to envisaging what is like to be a Formula 1 racer.
However, due to the fact ‘Thursday’ has been taken away from the F1 Grand Prix weekend, as to when drivers will actually find time to run the track remains to be seen – but it is certainly worth doing so!