2016 Chinese GP Practice Review

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Chinese Grand Prix - Race Day - Shanghai, China

Nico Rosberg wins the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second place and Sebastian Vettel in third place. Also Grosjean, Ricciardo, Bottas, Massa, Verstappen and Sainz Jr managed to score some much needed points for their respective teams.

The race weekend begins now….

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Ferrari look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Nico Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.38.037 followed closely by Lewis Hamilton with a gap of 0.146 seconds behind, Sebastian Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.628 seconds behind, Daniel Ricciardo in fourth with a gap of 1.024 seconds behind and Kimi Raikkonen in fifth with a gap of 1.118 seconds behind Rosberg.

Daniil Kvyat is sixth with a gap of 1.588 seconds behind, Carlos Sainz Jr is seventh with a gap of 1.639 seconds behind, Jenson Button is eighth with a gap of 1.937 seconds behind, Nico Hulkenberg is ninth with a gap of 2.132 seconds behind and Max Verstappen is tenth with a gap of 2.195 seconds behind Rosberg.

During FP1, we saw Lewis Hamilton spinning on the circuit at Turn 11 and struggling to get grip into his tyres. But he was able to get back to the garage and continue on in the session. We also saw Felipe Massa going off the circuit at Turn 6 after the rear left tyre was hanging off the rim after something spun up on his Williams. Massa did manage to get the car going in order to get back to the circuit and back to the garage to repair the car.

The session was red-flagged for a second time with 30 minutes left of the session to clear substantial debris following a left-rear tyre deflation for Renault’s Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen was warned by his team of a possible brake problem before Magnussen reported the rear suspension was broken.

However during the session, Hamilton spun twice at the same corner with Lewis reporting on team radio: “Something is up, I keep having this locking into Turn 11”.

In the closing stages of the session, Rosberg told Mercedes he was in “limp home mode” with the team telling him he might have “an engine issue”.

Teams lost around 30 minutes during the second red flag as a comprehensive track inspection was carried out amid suggestions debris had triggered Magnussen’s puncture.

But there was a flurry of activity when the session restarted with eight minutes to go as the drivers tried to get lap times in in preparation for FP2.

Kimi Raikkonen tops the timesheets in FP2.

Kimi Raikkonen tops the timesheets in FP2.

Practice 2 saw Raikkonen tops the timesheet with a time of 1.36.896 followed closely by Vettel with a gap of 0.109 seconds behind, Rosberg was in third with a gap of 0.237 seconds behind, Hamilton in fourth with a gap of 0.433 seconds behind and Ricciardo in fifth with a gap of 1.247 seconds behind Rosberg.

Verstappen is sixth with a gap of 1.372 seconds behind, Hulkenberg is seventh with a gap of 1.631 seconds behind, Sainz Jr is eighth with a gap of 1.646 seconds behind, Perez is ninth with a gap of 1.673 seconds behind and Bottas is tenth with a gap of 1.827 seconds behind Rosberg.

After FP1 was disrupted with two red flags, second practice at Shanghai proved to be a smoother affair.

Rosberg, who suffered an ignition problem right at the end of practice one, was the first of the frontrunners to bolt on the super-softs and set the early pace but he was subsequently deposed by Vettel before Raikkonen went quickest.

Attention then turned to long runs in preparation for Sunday’s race, with Mercedes splitting its strategy by putting Rosberg on the softs and Hamilton on the mediums.

But it was yet another frustrating session for Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez, who suffered electrical problems in first practice and then was confined to the garage for most of second practice after his rear brakes caught fire.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP3.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP3.

Practice 3 saw Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.36.896 followed closely by Bottas with a gap of 0.710 seconds behind, Perez was in third with a gap of 1.338 seconds behind, Sainz Jr in fourth with a gap of 1.449 seconds behind and Gutierrez in fifth with a gap of 2.175seconds behind Vettel.

Palmer is sixth with a gap of 2.326 seconds behind, Magnussen is seventh with a gap of 2.410 seconds behind, Wehrlein is eighth with a gap of 2.613 seconds behind, Verstappen is ninth with a gap of 2.799 seconds behind and Hulkenberg is tenth with a gap of 2.807 seconds behind Vettel.

With heavy rain throughout the morning when FP3 was taking place, this meant that the first car did not venture out on to the sodden track until 15 minutes into the hour-long session, with Valtteri Bottas serving as the guinea pig on full-wet tyres as many others looked on.

Despite standing water in some places (and obvious plumes of spray), come the halfway point where the rain eased sufficiently for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to finally record the first laptime with a 2.00.812s .

At that stage of the session,Raikkonen’s team-mate Vettel had not even ventured out of the garage for an exploratory lap. But Vettel finally took to the track with 22 minutes remaining on intermediates tyres, at a time when Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were also testing the inters.

Both Red Bulls set purple sectors – Ricciardo in the first, Kvyat in the second – before they aborted their laps and returned to the pits which highlighted that the track was ready for that particular Pirelli compound.

At the same time, and on his first flying lap, Carlos Sainz Jr temporarily went quickest on full wets, knocking Raikkonen off top spot by a second. Behind him, however, and despite complaining at one stage of “issues”, including being “stuck in first gear”, Vettel comfortably went on to set the quickest time that remained untouched.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Sainz Jr and even Bottas or Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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