Brought to you by Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
The Chinese Grand Prix has proven successful for Sebastian Vettel in the past, most notably when he scored Red Bull’s first win in the sport there, back in 2009. How times have changed, with the bovine team threatening to quit and 4-time World Champion finding form in Malaysia. However, given the times from FP1, it will be a tough ask to repeat that feat.
Roberto Merhi was the first out onto the circuit, soon joined by his teammate Stevens, as the Manor team look to continue their rapid rate of improvement. A 1:50.865 the first time on the board for the session, which was soon bettered by a whole host of others as they filtered out. Vettel was the early surprise as he spun on his first timed lap, although fortunately for the tifosi he avoided any damage to the car.
There was exclamation all around social media as a crazed man darted across the track in an attempt to get close to his heroes. Perhaps this was a response to Bernie’s comments preseason saying he wants to limit paddock passes…
Normal service was resumed when Lewis Hamilton slotted in ahead of Nico Rosberg on the timesheets. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the pits after experiencing problems with his brakes, as they proved less responsive than he would normally opt for. The better news for the Finn was the higher top speeds the Ferrari car was achieving, 4 km/h quicker than the Williams pair, which of course pays dividends on the long back straight.
After his car was worked on and fixed he set a 1:37.662, a two second delta between the medium and soft tyre, which was not beaten by Nico Rosberg after he ran wide at the final corner. The German’s time was not representative of what he can hope for on his flying lap, as Hamilton soon went faster, to a 1:37.219.
No sooner had he done this, Felipe Massa spun at the end of 1.2km straight, locking the rears and losing control. A dramatic screech of the brakes and a dejected Brazilian brought out the red flag with just over 50 minutes left in the session. When the session resumed it was Felipe Nasr who placed himself into fifth, 1.813 seconds shy of Hamilton’s time, but presenting as the fourth fastest package. With Ferrari power along the long back straight, the team can expect another strong showing, matching Vettel in the speed trap.
Valtteri Bottas, Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo all slotted in, with the Australian putting in an impressive lap, 1.092 short of the World Champion’s time. The long runs then ensued, but Will Stevens was not part of this as a powerunit issue meant the Briton’s FP2 was cut short, limited to just 6 laps, save for a couple of glory laps at the end.
A recently married couple were shown in the grandstands looking, as expected, happy to see the McLaren further improving on the leaps and bounds forward they made in Malaysia. The Woking outfit looking to be far stronger than the Force India and Manor cars, not being hurt by the lack of power and long back straight as much as expected.
Raikkonen’s pace was better than Rosberg’s on the long runs, reinforcing the strength of the prancing horse, if not over one lap over a stint. Even without an outright qualifying position, expect the Finn to be strong in race specification on Sunday.
Fresh from a front wing change to switch to the new lower downforce version, Kvyat’s left-rear brake was on fire by turn one. The Russian failed to even make it back to the pit lane, as was instructed by his engineer, as the brakes completely failed at the end of the back straight. A fairly expensive lap for the team as the new front wing was destroyed in the impact with wall, making the whole exercise fairly fruitless. Questions will undoubtedly be raised about the Red Bull youngster and the speed he carried into turn 14, though Jolyon Palmer was quick to jump to his defence.
The final act of the session was the cat and mouse game between Hamilton and Vettel, as the Briton slipped further and further back into the clutches of the German. No sooner had the Ferrari man fallen back to avoid the dirty air was he joined by fellow countryman Rosberg, who once again disrupted a lap. The fight out on track a welcome change to Shanghai nightclub scuffle witnessed in the past.
The midfield looks to be the closest scrap this weekend, with several teams vying for a position there; most notably the Toro Rossos not giving anything away. The turns proved awkward for many in FP2, with bewildering brakes playing havoc at the front and back of the cars – it will be a long night ahead for the engineers up and down the paddock.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:38.311||1.092||24|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1:38.737||1.518||10|
|14||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:39.894||2.675||32|
|15||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:39.971||2.752||28|
|16||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:40.151||2.932||28|
|18||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:40.868||3.649||24|