What the teams said – Sprint Qualifying in China

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Carlos Sainz of Ferrari and Spain  during Sprint Qualifying ahead of


McLaren said this track wouldn’t suit them, yet they looked quick in the dry conditions both in practice and at the start of Sprint Qualifying. Both cars made SQ3 with ease, and once there were trading fast laps. Norris made mistakes on his opening two runs, only to set an incredible time on his third and final attempt. That was initially deleted for track limit infringements on the prior lap only to be swiftly reinstated by Race Control, earning Norris his best start of the season. Piastri managed to lock up, which sent his gearbox into neutral, preventing him from starting further forward.

READ MORE: Norris delighted as ‘all or nothing’ final lap nets P1 during Sprint Qualifying in Shanghai

Lando Norris, 1st, 1:57.940

“I’m extremely happy, first of all, a big thanks to the whole team. It was tricky. Going into a session like this isn’t easy, especially before Sprint Quali when you know it’s going to rain. I was quite happy with how we were in the dry – we’ve had good pace all weekend so far, so it was a challenge heading into the session with changeable conditions, where you’ve got to push, build tyre temperature and get a lap in.

"There is still a chance of rain tomorrow, so if it’s like this, then I think our chances of a good result are relatively decent, but the race is very different to qualifying and I’m sure everyone is going to catch up a bit tomorrow. I think we’re in a good position and I’m very happy. The team did a good job, the car’s feeling good and so am I, and it’s paying off.”

Oscar Piastri, 8th, 2:00.990

“A mixed day. Unfortunately, not the end to Sprint Qualifying that we wanted. I had some wheelspin and pulled a gear and found neutral which was frustrating as I think we could have been higher up, but I also just didn’t find enough on the last lap. I’m pleased for Lando and I think overall, we’re more promising here than we were expecting to be, but the pace in general is tough to judge. We’ll have a look overnight and see what we can do ahead of the Sprint and Grand Prix Qualifying tomorrow.”

Andrea Stella, Team Principal

“It was an intense session affected by the weather, with the rain imminent in the first two Sprint Qualifying sessions, before finally arriving at the end of the second, with the third being wet. We needed to be ready, operationally and we needed to drive clean laps in difficult conditions, and this is what the team and the drivers did today. I have to praise Lando’s brilliant driving in SQ3 when the grip was very low on Intermediate tyres and it was difficult to stay out of trouble and work out where to put the wheels.

“It was a shame on Oscar’s side that he suffered an issue with a lock-up and then with the gearbox, which meant he lost acceleration and large amount of time out of the hairpin. He should have been higher in the classification. Nonetheless, this is a good starting position for the Sprint, with two cars that can finish strongly in the points. We’ll have to be ready for everything because there still seems to be some inclement weather around, but so far, so good this weekend.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Sprint pole qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren celebrates in parc ferme during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Mercedes opted to only run the hard tyre in practice, so came into Sprint Qualifying with their form an unknown. They struggled hugely in SQ1 and needed a late lap from Russell to get both cars through. But worse was to come in SQ2, with the rain falling late on and Russell having not nailed his first run. He tried to go again but to no avail, exiting in P11. Hamilton did make it through but made a mistake on his opening run. He came in for more inters, returned to the track and grabbed provisional pole. It looked like he would start P1 – only for Norris’ effort to be reinstated, having initially been deleted. Nonetheless, second on the grid is his best of the year.

Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:59.201

"It was very tricky conditions out there. As you could see, there was not a lot of grip out there for anyone. As soon as I saw the rain coming though, I was getting very excited. Our pace in the dry didn’t look quite quick enough to challenge at the very front, so the wet weather gave us more of an opportunity. That’s when it all came alive.

"We will have to wait and see what the conditions are tomorrow. We have a lot of fast cars starting behind us, but we will see what we can do to keep them behind us."

George Russell, 11th, 1:36.345

"It wasn’t easy at all out there. I got one lap in SQ2 before the rain arrived, which was frustrating. We tried to get out on track as soon as we could, as we knew the rain was coming. We got stuck behind several cars in the pitlane and lost a lot of tyre temperature. We were still close to going through; one more tenth and we would have made it, so it was a shame to be on the bottom end of that.

"Who knows what would have happened if we had got through to SQ3. Nevertheless, we’ve got a chance to recover in the Sprint tomorrow though. After that, we’ve got Qualifying for the Grand Prix in the afternoon and that is what really matters."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"It was a tricky day today. We knew that having not visited here in five years, the circuit would likely be very green in FP1. That proved to be the case and we therefore elected to only run one set of the Hard tyres. That provides us with a more beneficial allocation for the rest of the weekend. We hope that will prove useful as the track continues to grip up and evolve.

"Given the solitary hour of practice, it was always going to be a challenge to get the cars in the optimal window for Sprint Qualifying. That was complicated further by the changing conditions. After getting both cars through to SQ2, George suffered from a lack of tyre temperature on his first push lap. As the rain began to fall, he found himself on the wrong side of the bubble. Lewis made it through and, after a good call by him and the team to change onto a new set of Intermediates with higher pressure, did a great job to qualify P2.

"Our pace in the dry wasn’t spectacular but with Lewis, we will be looking to keep those faster cars behind us in tomorrow’s Sprint. George should be able to make some forward progress from his starting position and hopefully he can fight his way into the points. The on-track running in the Sprint will also provide us with further knowledge that we can utilise to make further adjustments to the W15 ahead of qualifying."

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 on track during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Stroll topped FP1, raising hopes that Aston Martin could compete up front as Alonso elected to just run the hard tyre in the only practice session. But Stroll didn’t manage to get a good first lap in during SQ2 so, when the weather arrived, couldn’t advance. His team mate did make SQ3 and, once there, grabbed a brilliant third, Alonso using all his skill to judge how much to risk it out there. He has the unenviable task of keeping Verstappen behind at the start of the Sprint now though.

Fernando Alonso, 3rd, 1:59.915

“It was quite a stressful Sprint Qualifying. In SQ1 we were looking at the radar and checking if the rain was coming. We progressed and safely made it into SQ3 in eighth position before it rained more heavily. As the conditions changed, we were quite competitive. The tyres seemed to improve with each lap, but the circuit was just getting worse with the rainfall increasing. It was difficult to judge the level of grip and how much risk to take. We have the two races now, so let’s see if we can score some points in the Sprint and qualify well for Sunday.”

Lance Stroll, 15th, 1:36.677

“We completed some solid running in FP1 and I found some good speed towards the end of the session on the Soft tyre. However, I just didn’t have the grip I needed in Sprint Qualifying when the track was dry. We then got a bit caught out by the rain, so I didn't get a second push lap in SQ2. Our options are limited in a short Sprint given we're starting P15, but we'll take today’s learnings and see what we can do for the rest of the weekend.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and Spain during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Red Bull

Red Bull looked quick in practice and at the start of Sprint Qualifying. Perez was trading blows with his team mate, with both looking very much in form. But as the rain began to fall, suddenly things became much more frantic. Verstappen made mistakes on his opening two flying laps, running wide on both. Fortunately, he managed to keep his RB20 between the white lines on his third and final attempt to snag fourth, while Perez dropped to sixth after a small mistake on his last flying run.

Max Verstappen, 4th, 2:00.028

“It was incredibly slippery out there and I struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tyres, that’s why it was very difficult to keep the car on track. The car never really switched on for me and it was like driving on ice, which is why I think we deserved where we finished in Sprint Qualifying. It wasn’t really working for me in the wet, even though I think in the dry the car was quite good and I was quite happy with that. It doesn’t always go as planned but it’s not like you have to start on the inside here, there will be low grip for everyone due to the paint on the tarmac here and so we have to try and have the best start possible. I think it is going to be quite a long stint on one set of tyres for the Sprint but I think that that will make it quite interesting.”

Sergio Perez, 6th, 2:00.375

“Things were looking great initially, then with the traffic and the backoff people were doing we were onto a good final lap but unfortunately, I just couldn’t do the final corner, it was so tricky to get through there and that meant I went off. That compromised being on the front row for the Sprint but I think we are in a good place this weekend. I felt confident straight away today and we ae in a good moment with the car, so in any conditions I think we can be competitive for now, which is very promising.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“Firstly, it’s great to be back in China. The Sprint Qualifying certainly proved exciting albeit in tricky conditions. Fourth and sixth to start the Sprint tomorrow is obviously not what we were aiming for but it’s a circuit that you can overtake on and therefore we know we are in the fight. The conditions on Saturday look to be a little more consistent than they were today so we are hopeful of a competitive Saturday and we will look to move up the field quickly and deliver a strong performance tomorrow in the Sprint and then in qualifying.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing and The Netherlands during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Leclerc had the edge on his team mate all day long, until the rain arrived. Then on his opening lap on intermediate tyres, the Monegasque driver spun and hit the barriers. He was lucky to only damage his front wing but lost plenty of time coming into the pits for a new one. As for Sainz, he managed to grab fifth on the grid on a day when there was chaos everywhere you looked – he played it safe, but has a decent slot for tomorrow’s Sprint.

Charles Leclerc, 7th, 2:00.566

"I lost it on the out lap in Turn 8 during SQ3, which compromised our session. I don’t think there was much we could have done differently today.

"We did some good work in terms of tyre preparation in dry conditions, which seems to be paying off. We’ll give it our all in the Sprint Race and then reset for qualifying tomorrow afternoon."

Carlos Sainz, 5th, 2:00.214

"It was a tough mixed session. We made it through SQ1 and SQ2 without major issues, but then in SQ3, with the rain and the Intermediate tyres, we struggled quite a lot with the rear tyres as we weren’t able to get them up to the right temperature.

"If the Sprint Race tomorrow is also wet it won't be an easy session for us, but as of now it looks like there is a higher chance of dry conditions. In any case, we will try to recover some positions and face qualifying in the afternoon with good momentum."

Fred Vasseur, Team Principal

"The conditions in SQ3 were extremely difficult and we struggled to get the Intermediates up to temperature, although I think this was the same for everyone. We will analyse all the data to see what we can learn from this first wet session, even if I reckon the condition of the track surface made the situation even more tricky.

"The forecast for tomorrow is better and we expect the rest of the weekend to be dry. We definitely had been hoping for a slightly less complicated first day on track given that we have not raced here for five year and this is our first time here with the new generation of cars. We are working a bit in the dark and the asphalt is particularly difficult to understand, but I think we are working in the right way and I hope the fact we have saved a set of Mediums today will be useful later.

"Tomorrow, we will start off by trying to score points and then switch our focus to Sunday when the big points are given out."

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HANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 leads Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on track during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images )

Kick Sauber

Kick Sauber managed to get both cars into SQ3, an incredible result especially for Zhou who is competing on home soil for the first time. With the rain intensifying, Zhou struggled to get a time on the board, losing his initial laps to track limits but eventually doing enough to land P10. As for Bottas, he briefly looked like really stealing a top grid slot, but had to settle for P9 in the end. With points on offer for the top eight finishers, those two might fancy taking a few risks at the start tomorrow to try and climb up the order.

Valtteri Bottas, 9th, 2:01.537

“Today has been a great day for the team: both cars in the top ten is how we want to start a race weekend. We experienced mixed conditions – something that’s never easy, but it’s reassuring to know that we would have been up there regardless of the weather. I’m truly happy for Zhou and the Chinese fans – getting into SQ3 at your home race is special.

“While it’s still quite challenging to assess everyone’s race pace after FP1, especially with evolving track conditions, we’ll give it our all tomorrow. The team has done a great job and with the extra support from the Chinese fans, we aim to be fighting for points in the sprint and deliver a qualifying performance to this level tomorrow.”

Zhou Guanyu, 10th, 2:03.537

"It feels great to be in SQ3. The laps kept coming together, in SQ1 through SQ2: there was a lot of potential in the car but in the end, in the rain in SQ3, we only had one lap to get the best possible outcome. I was just trying to get a lap onboard, even though everyone was struggling so much with the grip. I’m happy with the day, with two cars in SQ3, and the fans have been sensational: I can’t wait for the rest of the weekend.

"Points tomorrow will only be for the top eight, but we’re taking this step by step: we put two cars in the top ten today, and we will give everything tomorrow. Everything can still happen; it’ll be a sprint from the lights to the finish. The guys we are fighting for the points will be strong, but we stand with a chance and we’re ready to go for it.”

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative

“Today has been a positive day for us – not just for having both cars in SQ3, but also for the performance shown on the medium compound in dry conditions in SQ1. The team did a really good job and both drivers were able to execute clean laps without mistakes. I believe this boosts the team’s confidence: we started bringing upgrades a few races ago and it seems we’re going in the right direction. We know that every weekend presents its own challenges – especially here with a Sprint format and mixed conditions, which can be quite demanding for all teams – but we have seen that, with a solid package, we can consolidate the performance shown in today’s Sprint Qualifying session.

“Starting in the top ten can open an opportunity for us to score points, and we know the importance of adding more points to our scorecard. A big tribute goes back to our team, both in Hinwil and trackside – we keep our heads down and focus on the remainder of the weekend. Our job is not finished here, but to gain confirmation of our ability to fight for points is reassuring. We’re excited to go racing and give back to the Chinese fans that have shown us tremendous support and love already throughout the weekend.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on track during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Haas sounded confident that this track would suit their car, and it certainly looked that way in FP1. But when the rain started to fall late on in SQ2, neither driver had done enough on their opening lap to progress. The gaps were tight both in general within the team, Magnussen pipping his team mate by just 0.005s in the end. The Sprint might prove tricky for the team to force a result on, but they have plenty of valuable learning to take into Qualifying later on tomorrow.

Nico Hulkenberg, 13th, 1:36.478

“A little bit disappointed not to have made it into SQ3 today – fine margins. SQ1, it was ok, there was some light drizzle about, but it was dry. SQ2, things got a little more interesting with the later rain. It was just a case of small margins. With a little more preparation time, might have been different. It’s not the easiest of days with the one practice session, but it’s the same for everyone, so that’s where we are today. Practice across the board maybe wasn’t the real deal, or the real picture, with everyone doing different things. But still, I feel good in the car and it feels encouraging for the weekend.”

Kevin Magnussen, 12th, 1:36.473

“I’m not disappointed but we knew after practice that the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and I think one of the Aston Martin’s didn’t really set lap times in that session. We didn’t take the right choice in terms of strategy in SQ2, doing two runs, basically stopping in between – and for the second lap it started raining. We took a bit of a gamble there. It could have paid off, but overall, P12 – it’s not too bad.”

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal

“SQ1, I thought it was ok – we got through to SQ2 with both cars safely. That was good. In SQ2, because we were expecting rain, it was pretty clear for us that the tyre worked for the first push lap. We went for it for the one timed, which I think was the correct decision, but we somehow underperformed a little bit in SQ2 and ended up out. It’s a bit disappointing to be P12 and P13 but they’re still decent positions. We’ll do our best to move up tomorrow in the Sprint.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


Tsunoda was racing at this track for the first time, and was left frustrated with his early exit in Sprint Qualifying, especially considering how quick he’s been over one lap so far this season. Ricciardo though tends to go well here, and looked to be pushing for a top-10 starting berth. Unfortunately, he too couldn’t nail his first lap in SQ2 and was the first to abandon the session as the rain intensified. Both drivers will be looking for far more when tomorrow’s Qualifying session rolls around.

READ MORE: F2 racer Antonelli ‘excited for what’s coming’ after making ‘incredible’ F1 test debut with Mercedes

Daniel Ricciardo, 14th, 1:36.553

“It’s one of those days where P14 is not an obvious result to get excited about, but personally, I think it was a much better day because we hit the ground running this morning and were in the top 10. At the same time, I knew that some cars used only one set of tyres. We knew getting into Q3 would have been tough, but the feeling on track was definitely a bit better, so some encouragement by that. It’s close, not somewhere where we’re going to be particularly over the moon, but on our personal little path that we’re on, it was a positive day. Looking at tomorrow, the Sprint is certainly another chance to come through the field and have a little bit of a battle. It’s a circuit where you can overtake because there are some good opportunities. So yes, two chances for racing this weekend and I’m really looking forward to that.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 19th, 1:37.892

“I struggled with the balance and grip in general from FP1. Even for Sprint Qualifying, we tried different things, but I couldn’t put it all together. Not sure what’s happening there but it definitely was not easy today. It’s not because of the weather and the general track conditions, I just could not achieve more. I haven’t struggled this much so far. It’s strange, but there are still sessions to go, so we’ll continue collecting the data. Qualifying tomorrow is very important so hopefully, we can find something until then, so let’s see how it goes.”

Alan Permane, Racing Director

“Not a great day for us obviously, and certainly not what we’ve become accustomed to qualifying this car. It was apparent from the first session this morning that we were struggling a little bit for speed. We’ll do the Sprint tomorrow and then obviously we’ve got a chance to change the cars. There’ll be a lot of work going on tonight with the engineers here and back in Italy and the UK because we have an opportunity to adjust the setup for the qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB during Sprint Qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


Gasly had a tricky practice session with an ERS issue, bemoaning a lack of any representative running. He also wasn’t benefitting from the upgrades the team had, with the one set on offer being bolted to Ocon’s car. As such, out-qualifying his team mate should go some way to soothing those frustrations, even if it is small consolation considering both cars exited Sprint Qualifying at the first time of asking.

Esteban Ocon, 17th, 1:37.720

“We did not maximise the potential of the car today. I think we can extract more performance from the car and, unfortunately with only one practice session, we did not put everything together in time for Sprint Qualifying. We will try our best to make progress in the Sprint Race tomorrow morning and make changes to the car when Parc Fermé opens ahead of Qualifying for the Grand Prix. We will do some analysis overnight and evaluate what set-up changes we can make between sessions to improve tomorrow.”

Pierre Gasly, 16th, 1:37.632

“A challenging Friday morning session for us, due to a high voltage problem but the team worked hard and managed to swap the Power Unit and the battery before Sprint Qualifying as a precautionary measure. The session turned out slightly better than expected, although, we are far from where we want to be currently. From what we have seen so far, the upgrades to Esteban’s car look to be a step in the right direction, so I am looking forward to Miami where we both will be able to run the updated car. In the meantime, we will continue working hard to get the maximum out of the car in the Sprint Race and Qualifying tomorrow.”

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Alpine F1 A524 Renault kicks up sparks on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)


Both cars exited in SQ1, with this track seemingly not playing to their strengths. Sargeant felt he had been impeded by Gasly on his flying run but the stewards didn’t investigate that one. Albon couldn’t do much better, and from lowly starting slots, Williams may use the Sprint as a test run for Sunday’s Grand Prix. They will be anxiously watching Kick Sauber tomorrow as well, to see if their rivals manage to score any points.

Alex Albon, 18th, 1:37.812

"Tough session today. We were the first cars out, so the track was still very green, which damaged the tyres. We tried to go for a second lap at the end of SQ1 but the tyres were gone and we didn’t have the grip. I don’t know if SQ2 was a possibility today, but I think there was potential to be in a better position than we are. We’ll treat the Sprint race as a session to learn more about the car ahead of Qualifying."

Logan Sargeant, 20th, 1:37.923

"Mixed feelings today, as like Japan, I feel like I did a decent job but unfortunately that’s placed me at the back of the grid. I felt like there’s a little bit more in the car but I’m sure everyone else can say the same. The track was extremely slippery today with low grip which made it difficult. We have our homework to do overnight. The good thing is Parc Fermé opens again after the Sprint race to allow us to change some things. We’ll use the Sprint to pick up the learnings for the race on Sunday and, of course, figure out what we can do better in Qualifying tomorrow."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"Today was tough and we struggled in both sessions to generate good grip on the Medium tyre. The light rain between the sessions didn’t help and made the conditions at the start of the Qualifying session quite tricky.

"We will use the Sprint race session tomorrow to help prepare for the Grand Prix and use the opportunity before tomorrow’s Qualifying session to make some setup changes."

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams in the cockpit of his Williams FW46 Mercedes ahead of practice of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


Simone Berra, Chief Engineer

“It was a very interesting day for the spectators as well as for everyone working in the sport. With the weather changing considerably over the course of the day, we saw four of the five types of tyre available to the teams this weekend coming into play. With regard to the slicks, an initial analysis suggests that all three compounds could play their part over the rest of the weekend. The Medium is clearly destined to be used in both tomorrow morning’s Sprint Race and Sunday’s Grand Prix, with the Soft possibly a valid option for the Sprint, especially if it is held in cooler conditions than this morning’s free practice and logically, the Hard is more likely to see use in Sunday’s race.

“In general, track conditions changed very quickly over the course of the day. Contrary to expectations, we did not see any graining today, while with the dry compounds we saw quite significant degradation, but it is too early to have a clear idea regarding strategies. The Sprint Race will be a great test session to check tyre behaviour over a long stint.

“The rain in Q3 meant we were able to see what the Intermediate could do in a very closely contested scenario and it behaved pretty well despite the unusual Shanghai asphalt. In fact, the additional layer of bitumen put down in recent months has rendered the track even more slippery in wet conditions, putting the drivers’ skills to the test. The result was a truly spectacular session which I think everyone found entertaining, including the drivers themselves!”

FACTS AND STATS: Zhou makes the top 10 on home soil as Kick Sauber reach SQ3 for the very first time



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