LIVE COMMENTARY: 2011 CHINESE GRAND PRIX - CHINESE GRAND PRIX WEATHER
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As it happened: Chinese Grand Prix weather
By Emlyn Hughes
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A little more than 24 hours has passed since the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix, but already the teams are packed up and most of the way to Shanghai for the final flyaway event before the sport returns to Europe - the Chinese Grand Prix.
In theory, the move away from Malaysia should lead to a more predictable climate, but that may not entirely be the case this weekend either, due to the movement of a developing low pressure system way out to the west of China.
The typical weather pattern here is west to east and, for the next few days, Shanghai will get away with some decent dry weather - although temperatures will be much cooler. Thursday will be much better with an ambient of around 25 degrees, but already clouds will have rolled in, heralding a change for the weekend.
Early predictions are for the low to move in over Shanghai, bringing in some showers on Friday. An overcast day with more prolonged rainfall is expected on Saturday, so Pirelli will have to wait a few more days to see how its tyres perform in wet conditions.
Slowly, the low will slip away to the east before gathering energy over the East China Sea on its way to Japan. This leaves Shanghai with a showery phase on Saturday night once the main area of rain has passed, but by Sunday conditions should be looking much better to leave a dry race.
Temperatures are likely to vary quite widely during the weekend, with maxima of 25 Celsius on Friday, but just 16 or 17 degrees during the dull and damp Saturday, and rising a little to 20 or 21 degrees on race day itself.
The current forecast is by no means set in stone, and the whole weekend hinges on the speed and trajectory of the low moving in from western China. There is a slight possibility that the low will edge south - just enough for most of the rain and showers to miss Shanghai - but it is more likely that we are looking at a showery weekend to come.
AUTOSPORT Live will continue to monitor the maps and data over the next few days and we will publish a further update to the forecast on Thursday.
Weather forecasts for the Chinese Grand Prix over the last few days have proved almost as dramatic as the racing, but it was far from the driver's minds as they stepped back into the spotlight on Thursday for the standard round of pre-event media briefings in the Shanghai paddock.
Numerical models are split this evening on what exactly will happen with regard to a developing low pressure system in central China. Some predict more showers than others throughout Friday and Saturday, but one aspect of this change to cooler weather does get widespread agreement - that as the low moves east, there will be a slight southerly element to it late on Saturday, taking the heaviest band of rain away from the circuit on Sunday.
The first day of track action will dawn dry but mainly cloudy, as the beginnings of this low pressure system moves in from the west. Practice 1 is expected to be dry and there may be just a few brief sunny spells, but in the afternoon it will turn rather dull and overcast, and there is a slight chance of rain affecting the end of second practice.
Temperatures will climb steadily to a maximum of 27 Celsius during the second session with a very light easterly breeze taking the edge off the warm conditions. Further showers are likely during the evening once the track action has been completed.
Sebastian Vettel has a maximum score after two rounds of the championship, but McLaren is gaining ground and we could be set for another showdown this weekend. AUTOSPORT Live will have blow-by-blow coverage all weekend, starting with the first practice session, beginning on Friday at 01:50 GMT.
Sebastian Vettel came out on top in a rapid-fire soft compound burst of laps between the contenders in practice two to end day one on top in China.
It was a wonder that the sparse crowd could see the spectacle being played out in front of their eyes, as the Shanghai smog descended over the 5.451km circuit on Friday. For a brief period there was also a threat of rain, but shower cells disappeared as quickly as they developed across the city, leaving us with a dry day to get the event up and running.
If you are looking for rain to spice things up for the rest of the weekend then there's nothing but bad news, as the low pressure system now moving in from central China takes the expected swing from a west-to-east to more of a south-easterly direction over the next couple of days.
This results in the rain associated with the system swinging away from the city during Saturday and Sunday, leaving northern Shanghai with dry conditions.
It will dawn dry but mainly cloudy overhead tomorrow morning - that is, if you can decipher the difference between the smog and the cloud base, and conditions will be like this for final practice. But, towards afternoon, a few more breaks may appear and generally it will look a little brighter for qualifying.
The smog may be less severe tomorrow due to the presence of a light north-easterly breeze, and with temperatures only reaching 17 Celsius due to the change in wind direction, it will feel a lot cooler - but importantly, less 'stuffy' and more comfortable for everyone.
Red Bull is threatening to walk away with qualifying and the race, but issues over KERS remain. Can McLaren make a battle of it, as we had last weekend at Sepang? Join us for full coverage of Saturday's action at Shanghai, starting with the final practice at 02:50 GMT.
As the smog cleared, a dark blue shape came hurtling down the back straight towards Turn 14. Sebastian Vettel was on another one of those blistering qualifying laps and he duly claimed an another pole position for tomorrow's race at Shanghai.
Weather conditions were very different compared to Friday. The smog was effectively blown away by a moderate north-easterly breeze, but with that came a sharp drop in temperature. A maximum of just 16 Celsius - a full 10-degree drop on yesterday's mark - made for a chilly feel, but this came as a welcome boost for the teams and drivers, as they could manage the tricky Pirelli tyres much better.
Race day itself will dawn dry but again it will be overcast, as the mass of cloud associated with the low pressure system affecting the weather passes slowly over the region.
It will start off quite chilly with temperatures just into double figures in the morning, but as the light breeze veers round to a south-westerly, temperatures will pick up a little towards race time and we expect a maximum of 18 Celsius during the event.
Cloudy skies will continue during the afternoon, but one or two breaks are likely to appear, making things a touch brighter at times during the race. More importantly, this will be the first dry Chinese Grand Prix since 2008.
Can the McLaren duo prevent Vettel from taking a stunning hat-trick and championship momentum into the European season? Join us for all the action tomorrow from 06:30 GMT.
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Monday 11 Apr
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