A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2018 Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit...
Hamilton had looked slightly below par in Bahrain, but on a track he loves he was back to his best - topping both practice sessions. It wasn't all smooth sailing though as in between those hot laps he did run wide and spin in the windy conditions. Bottas matched his team mate's consistency if not his pace, finishing P3 in both sessions.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:33.999, P1; FP2: 1:33.482, P1
"When I got to Shanghai the weather was really good, but it's gone downhill - now we got the rain and it's cold. But it has been a good day, we got through all the laps that we needed and got some good feedback about the car. All the tyres here are quite similar in pace, so there's not a big difference between them even though we have the double step between the Soft and the UltraSoft. The balance of the car is good but we have some fine-tuning to do on it tonight. Ferrari were quick and Red Bull looked really fast on the long run. It's good to see all the times so close, but it means that we really need to bring our A game. We need everyone in the team to be on it throughout the weekend because it is a joint effort."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:34.457, P3; FP2: 1:33.515, P3
"It's good that the rain didn't come until the end of the session because the race is expected to be dry. The track improved a lot over the course of the day, even during the sessions. Lap after lap you could just feel more and more grip but that's quite usual for this track. We're expecting tomorrow morning to be a little bit trickier after the rain, and hopefully the conditions will improve for qualifying. We had some issues with the balance in the morning; the car was quick, but it wasn't easy to drive. We changed the set-up for FP2 and saw the lap times improve; hopefully we can make another step forward for tomorrow.. Overall, we got some good running and plenty of information, so I'm feeling all set for tomorrow. It looks like it will be extremely close again with Ferrari, both in qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We've had a fairly normal Friday programme here, a few test items on the cars for the early running but mainly we have been focussed on understanding the car balance and the tyre behaviour for qualifying and the race. We only tried the Soft tyre during FP1 but the initial feedback from the drivers was quite encouraging and the car seemed to be working well. Shanghai is never an easy track to balance because there are so many different types of corner but overall we seemed to be in reasonable shape. Free practice two saw us running all three tyres, both using UltraSoft but splitting the harder tyres so that Valtteri could focus on the Medium and Lewis on the Soft. We had concerns over the UltraSoft coming into this event but it was surprisingly consistent over the long runs and still going strong when we boxed both cars having seen the rain approaching on the radar. The Soft and Medium runs were cut short by the rain when it finally arrived although we managed to get a feel for the grip and balance and it seems that most of the other teams were also unable to complete their plans. The conditions are very cool today, similar to winter testing, and that does change the way the tyres behave. We are expecting more mixed weather tomorrow and our normal qualifying preparation could be affected by a bit of rain in free practice three. However, for Sunday the current forecasts show the sun coming out and we should get a much hotter track. Some of the work tonight needs to focus on that change of temperature for the race, but even for the cool conditions we anticipate tomorrow, we have work to do on the balance to fine tune a few corners. It's clear that ourselves, Red Bull and Ferrari are closely matched on pace and, as always, they will be improving their cars overnight so we will be working with our usual diligence to try and find every last bit of performance."
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-AMG F1 waves at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Rubio/Sutton Images
The feeling was Ferrari didn't show their full hand in China today, despite running the fastest ultrasoft rubber in both sessions. Once again, it was Raikkonen who looked the stronger of the two drivers, finishing second in both sessions - a tantalising 0.007s behind Hamilton in FP2. But Vettel has been saving his best for qualifying so expect him to figure come tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:34.861, P6; FP2: 1:33.590, P4
“I think at this track it is very important to find the right feeling with the car and its setup. The track is long and the tyres struggle here. But, overall, I think we are quite close. However, the car is not yet where I want it to be. So, we are still looking at how we can improve. I think the SF71H has the pace, but you need to make sure it works. Today it’s been a mixed day and I think in the afternoon it was a bit better and I was a little bit happier. Hopefully tomorrow I’m going to be very happy!”
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:34.358, P2; FP2: 1:33.489, P2
“It was a pretty good Friday and I’m quite happy with the feeling of the car. I think we have a pretty good base line to start from, it looks pretty good. The car has been quite straightforward since the beginning, so it easy to fine tune things. On one lap we had some traffic, I’m sure we could have gone faster. In the long run we never really got a proper idea due to the conditions: it started to rain and we had limited running, so it’s a bit tricky to know where we are. Today it was close, but then tomorrow who knows what the weather will be; things can change a lot from one day to the next.”
Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF-71H at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
Verstappen had a nasty moment in FP1, snap oversteer leading to a trip through the gravel. He was fortunate to keep his RB14 out of the barriers, but that incident flat-spotted his tyres and so wrecked his chance of a decent flying lap. Ricciardo was solid in FP1 and his long run pace was competitive, which bodes well for the race.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:34.537, P4; FP2: 1:34.557, P9
“Half of the morning and half of the afternoon were good. Generally with the harder compounds I was more comfortable, but once we put the ultrasoft on we didn’t have as much speed so we need to find a bit of time there and understand where we are losing. I obviously know what doesn’t feel right in the car, but now we need to find the answers and change that for tomorrow. The long runs were much better and I’m confident we can find the speed. Overall, we aren’t looking too bad and I hope we can be in the fight with Ferrari and Mercedes.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.668, P5; FP2: 1:33.823, P5
“We spent a bit of time during the first session today working on the setup of the car in order to understand it better. By the end of the day the pace was looking good and I think we can be happy with the car’s performance, it’s always good to finish a day’s running with no major problems and we don’t look too far off. We just managed to fit in a longer stint before the rain came towards the end of the second session so we didn’t feel the need to stay out. The long runs were once again very positive and I felt pretty comfortable. A little bit of fine tuning on the short runs to get the balance better and we should be alright. This track is good for overtaking anyway so I think we can have a good race judging by our pace.”
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB14 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Mark Sutton/Sutton Images
Vandoorne had a busy day - a trip through the gravel in FP1 after some oversteer sent him wide, before he had to pull over by the side of the track in FP2 after being released from the pits with a loose wheel. The team were later fined for an unsafe release. Meanwhile, Alonso was there or there abouts as per usual, and was the first to brave the wet conditions at the end of second practice, inspiring others to do likewise.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:36.044, P12; FP2: 1:34.632, P10
“The first session today was primarily spent testing some new parts we have on the car, while in the second session we focussed on the tyres. Since the degradation here is quite high, especially on the front tyres, it was important for Stoffel and me to test both compounds.
“We also managed to check the car in wet conditions, on Inter tyres, even though it was only for a few minutes at the end of the session. It’s always good to have an idea of engine mapping and everything else, which is different in the wet.
“We’re expecting good weather for the race – dry, sunny and wind blowing in a different direction – therefore not very similar conditions to today, so on Sunday we’ll need to improvise.
“We completed all the items on our programme and now we need to go through all the data and find performance for tomorrow."
Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:36.756, P18; FP2: 1:35.163, P14
“It’s not been the smoothest Friday for us. We had a few problems in FP1, and FP2 wasn’t perfect either with the issue with the pit-stop, but I did feel a lot more confident in the car this afternoon. In general, we’ve learned a lot again and FP2 was a much better session. The most positive thing from today, as we’ve learned over the last couple of weekends, is that our race pace looks promising and there’s a lot of effort going into our race preparation. Our qualifying performance we still need to work on a bit and understand a few things, but generally I feel okay.
“There’s plenty to play with here – the weather might look a bit tricky tomorrow and we’ll have a few different possibilities in terms of allocating tyres, but I think we have everything we need. There is quite a big difference between the Prime and the Option tyres as they behave quite differently so it will make things pretty interesting. We’re prepared and we know what we want for the race, so we should be in a strong position. It was also quite windy today and I think everyone was affected by it, but generally we had no major issues.
“After the pit-stop I left the box and I didn’t feel that there was anything wrong straight away. It was only as I turned left into Turn Three that I felt something happen, and when I looked in the mirror I could see that the right rear wheel was wobbly, so I immediately parked the car as a safety precaution. At the moment we’re still investigating, so it’s a bit too early to say what caused it. Pit-stops are part of Formula 1 and I think they always will be in some way. Of course, we don’t like to see incidents like we saw in Bahrain – we’ve seen a couple of cars having to park up and it’s definitely not what we want – but it happens every now and then.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Today was a useful day for us in terms of setting up the car for the weekend ahead. We managed to complete a solid amount of work and test a lot of different components, compounds and configurations, and now we’ll focus on analysing the data ahead of tomorrow.
“The threat of rain over the weekend puts a question mark over set-up for all the teams in the pit-lane, but we’re working hard to prepare ourselves for any eventuality using the data we have and read the situation as best we can. We managed to get one run in on the Inters at the end of the session so at least we have some information and feeling for the car’s behaviour in these kinds of conditions here in Shanghai.
“We don’t know yet what caused the issue in Stoffel’s practice pit-stop. It appears the right rear wheel didn’t attach properly, but we’re still investigating.”
Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MCL33 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Simon Galloway/Sutton Images
Force India again searched for aerodynamic improvements, with both cars sporting flow-viz paint at various points. Their raft of improvements seem to have made some difference, and although they didn't finish in the Top 10 they were not as far away as Australia, so are headed in the right direction...
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:36.051, P13; FP2: 1:34.792, P11
“It was a positive day. We worked our way through all the different tyre compounds and we’ve collected lots of information, which is always the focus of a Friday. It’s been pretty cold and wet today so let’s see what the weather does tomorrow. At least we have done a few laps on the intermediate tyres to be ready just in case we get some more rain over the weekend. Based on my feeling today, the goal tomorrow is to reach Q3.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:36.351, P14; FP2: 1:34.874, P13
“A good day overall and a very busy one. We worked through the test items and ran all the tyres we needed to, and even did some laps on the intermediates when the rain arrived. The long runs went to plan and I tried the ultra-soft tyre for the first time, which has given us a good idea of the direction we need to take for qualifying. We’ve worked hard to find more performance too and I would say it’s been a more solid Friday compared to Bahrain. We will keep working hard tonight and see where we stand tomorrow.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“We split the programme between the cars this morning in order to evaluate some development parts, just as we did in Bahrain. The rest of the day was routine giving us a chance to evaluate all three tyre compounds as well as the intermediates. Both drivers are reasonably happy with the balance of the car, but track temperatures are very low and it’s been quite windy throughout the day. Adapting to the changing weather conditions over the weekend will be very important.”
Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India VJM11 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
Although both drivers struggled on occasion with the blustery conditions, Renault once again looked quick. Hulkenberg and Sainz graced the Top 10 in both sessions, with the latter confident he's finally made a set-up breakthrough.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:35.800, P10; FP2: 1:34.313, P6
“It was pretty windy in the morning session then we did see some rain at the end of the afternoon session otherwise it’s been pretty straightforward. We’ve got a good starting point with the car here so it’s a case of seeing what we can do to get the most out of qualifying tomorrow then the race on Sunday.”
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.616, P8; FP2: 1:34.473, P8
“It was a clean Friday and I’m feeling more comfortable with the car. The balance is better than it was in Bahrain. We still need to look at the long-runs and make a step forward in that area but it’s certainly an encouraging Friday for us. It’s a lot trickier this weekend in terms of tyres and there’s a big gap between the compounds and a lot of tyre degradation. We’ll analyse that area and then assess the strategic options we have for Sunday.”
Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer
“It was a reasonably successful day for us with no issues. We completed our programme, despite the rain at the end of the second session, which is a positive. FP1 saw some early aero work before moving to looking at set-up then the afternoon comprised of the usual qualifying runs followed by longer stints on the tyres to get an understanding of how they should perform in the race. There were no real issues or surprises to report, so overall, it’s been a productive day.”
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Mark Sutton/Sutton Images
Williams are still searching for pace and form, thus opting for long runs in FP1. They did throw down some quick laps in second practice, but Stroll hampered his time by spinning and damaging his tyres, labelling them as "finito." Sirotkin spent a good deal of time out on track, and can hopefully use that data to good advantage tomorrow.
Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1:36.691, P15; FP2: 1:35.340, P16
"It’s tough, but we didn’t expect it to be easy. We know where we are and we know there’s a lot of work to be done. So far, it’s looking quite good. We are not the fastest car, but the way we work is good. We tried a couple of interesting things in the morning and in FP2. The long runs were a bit messy with traffic and rain, so it was not the most productive afternoon. Personally, I’m quite happy. I can point out the progress. Tomorrow and the race can be different, but I’m happy with my progress and with the team."
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:37.277, P20; FP2: 1:37.147, P20
"We had a tough FP2. In FP1 we were on the medium tyres for the session, but in FP2 I made a mistake on my first run and ran off the track. I was on a good lap on my second run and lost the car, and that was it as I never really set a laptime. Then we went into the race simulation which seemed half decent. The car seems a little bit better on ultrasofts, like in Australia, but we are still towards the back. I think it is going to be difficult again to get out of Q1."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"We had a pretty busy programme planned for today with a lot of aerodynamic tests. With rain predicted for FP2, we shuffled the tyres around between both sessions relative to our normal pattern. We’ve completed all of our programmes that we set out to do, even though we lost some track time with the rain at the end, and Lance flat spotting a set of tyres in FP2. I think we’ve got some good data to analyse that will put us in a better place tomorrow. Overall, there’s still a lot of work to do away from the track, but we will do what we can trackside to maximise the performance this weekend."
Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams FW41 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
Gasly came home in P11 in both sessions, showing that Bahrain's pace was not a one-off and that Toro Rosso are firmly in the mix for Q3 come tomorrow, despite power concerns. Hartley lagged slightly further behind after complaining about the balance of the car. Both drivers headed out late on in FP2 to get a couple of laps in the greasy conditions under their belts, a good 'just in case' strategy ahead of tomorrow's potentially mixed forecast.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:36.037, P11; FP2: 1:34.849, P12
“Today was my first time driving around Shanghai and it was a good day overall. It was nice to discover the track and drive on the real thing rather than the simulator or PlayStation! I think it was positive overall, the midfield is super tight and we are kind of in the middle at the moment. There are a couple of teams who seem to be quite fast here so we need to work hard tonight to improve for tomorrow, also for myself because I think I can improve a bit. I will work hard and study the data tonight, hopefully we can find some extra pace tomorrow to be more in the fight with the other midfield teams.”
Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:36.715, P16; FP2: 1:35.333, P15
“It was a reasonable clean day, we had a broken floor this morning so we lost some time in the first practice session which is never ideal, but other than that it was quite clean. Like the previous races we are in a very tight midfield battle, so getting everything 100% together will be key tomorrow to move as high up the grid as possible because it is extremely tight, so we have some work to do overnight. Although we missed a little bit of track time this morning, I’m feeling quite comfortable in the car, the balance feels good so if we can improve on certain areas overnight we could be fighting at the sharp end of the midfield battle again.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“Building on the successful work at the previous event mainly on the aero side, we came here with some further ways to try and optimise the aerodynamics of the car, so we put those into practice in P1. It was a bit of an eventful first practice session across the cars with a few problems, we had a bird strike Brendon’s front wing so we had a little bit of damage there. We also suffered some floor damage on his car, so we had to do a floor swap during the session which meant his run plan was a little bit disrupted. For Pierre, we managed to complete the plan and test some of the new parts which were good, and we carried those into P2. It was very windy – which is the same for everyone – but it made analysing the balance quite difficult because it was inconsistent from corner to corner. In the second session, we completed the normal focus of qualifying and long run performance, it’s fair to say that we improved a bit on the balance but we probably haven’t extracted the maximum potential from the car over the short and long runs, and there’s a little bit more for us to find tonight. It rained at the end of the session during a cooling test that we were trying to complete, so we weren’t able to gather all of the data on that because of the weather but this was more for longer term understanding rather than this weekend.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“This weekend, we face a completely different challenge to the one in Bahrain, both in terms of the track, as Shanghai has one of the longest straights of the year and also with the weather, which was quite cool today. Over the weekend, we will have to cope with changeable conditions, so we will have to adjust our engine settings accordingly. So far, over these three hours of practice, everything has gone smoothly on the PU front on both cars, although the rain right at the end prevented us from completing all our programme.”
Pierre Gasly (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
A mixed bag for Haas. Magnussen was consistent across both sessions, finishing solidly in the Top 10 and making the team still look like one of the quickest in the midfield. Grosjean struggled by comparison, spinning his VF-18 but on the positive side, his long run pace looked encouraging.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:35.718, P9; FP2: 1:36.471, P19
“Well, we’ve done quite a bit today. We’ve tried different things on the car – some worked, some didn’t. We didn’t quite get the qualifying simulation lap right, which is a bit of a shame. The longer run felt better, which is always encouraging and what you want for the race. We know Shanghai is a difficult circuit, so we’re studying all the options. The time sheet for today is not really representative of where we are.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:35.178, P7; FP2: 1:34.458, P7
“It was a good day for us – another good Friday. I’m happy with what we’ve seen. We need to work a bit on tyre management, especially for the first stint on the ultrasoft, but then I think everyone’s struggling a little bit. Let’s see what happens. The team’s doing a good job. The car’s behaving well. It’s performing at a good level. I’m happy. I had a good feeling in the car.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“FP1 went very well. It was very solid, FP2 as well – Kevin was solid. We learned a lot and did all our testing. With Romain, we still have some work to do with his balance. Overall, it was a good day. We didn’t have any issues with the car and we learned a lot.”
Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas VF-18 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Motorsport Images Tel: +44(0)20 8267 3000 email: email@example.com Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
Fresh from their points scoring exploits in Bahrain, Sauber came to China with real confidence. Although still towards the back of the field, they seem to be genuinely quicker than Williams and not far off the back of the midfield scrap. They do need their drivers to keep the C37 on track though - with both spinning; Ericsson in the wet and Leclerc in the dry.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:36.909, P19; FP2: 1:35.624, P17
“It has been a productive day for us. We completed the planned programme for both practice sessions, and tested all three tyre compounds, in addition to doing set-up work. The characteristics of the Shanghai International Circuit are quite different compared to the tracks in Melbourne and Bahrain. Therefore, we explored how our new car behaves on this track, and focused on finding the ideal set-up for the race. We gathered some interesting data and will work overnight to make sure we move in the right direction and have a positive qualifying tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:36.723, P17; FP2: 1:35.916, P18
“It was a productive day for us. It was the first time I had driven on this circuit, which is always an interesting experience. Learning a new track is a great way to continue developing as a driver and becoming more familiar with different challenges – such as the long straights and variety of corner combinations here in Shanghai. We were quite competitive on the soft and medium compounds this morning. We also completed some laps on the ultrasoft compound in the afternoon, and will be looking at our data to understand how to optimise our performance in tomorrow’s qualifying. I look forward to being back in the car tomorrow.”
Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Alfa Romeo Sauber C37 at Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday 13 April 2018. © Jerry Andre/Sutton Images
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“This is the first race of the season where we have a gap between the compounds, with our nominations being medium, soft and ultrasoft, missing out the supersoft. The thinking behind this strategy was to have a fairly even time gap between all three compounds available. This has proved to be the case so far, with a gap of about 0.9 seconds between medium and soft, and a slightly smaller one between the soft and ultrasoft, leading to a total difference of around 1.6 seconds from medium to ultrasoft. This should lead to some interesting strategies, with some cars seeming to be more at home on certain compounds than others. A lot of this behaviour is of course influenced by weather, and it looks like teams will have to adapt their cars and strategies to what are likely to be slightly warmer conditions in the race, which should play to the strengths of the harder compounds available, with a higher working range.”