A combination of low cloud and Shanghai’s notorious pollution conspired to ensure that Friday’s second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix was abandoned.
After the first practice session was interrupted by a lengthy suspension when conditions were too unsafe to use the medical helicopter, the situation deteriorated in the afternoon. Race Control was repeatedly force to delay the start of the session until, with less than 15 minutes left of the 90-minute session, it halted proceedings altogether.
With barely any running in the opening practice session, teams will be scrambling to cram as much running as possible into Saturday morning’s final 60-minute session before qualifying in the afternoon. This will all but ensure some surprise results when the starting grid order is determined on Saturday.
Why was the session suspended when it wasn’t raining?
While the TV cameras rather flattered visibility conditions and the weather itself had genuinely improved from the morning, the FIA has implemented strict controls governing when it is safe to allow cars on track.
The FIA has strict rules in place concerning the rescue and medical services at circuits – which also govern the transit times to a circuit’s designated hospital – to ensure the best possible immediate care in the shortest possible time. The rules dictate a maximum allowable transit time by road for an ambulance, and if that cannot be achieved, then a maximum allowable transit time by medical helicopter is used as a secondary guide.
With the Shanghai International Circuit lacking proximity to a major hospital within the allowable time by road, a helicopter is therefore considered the only acceptable means of emergency transport.
As a result of visibility conditions at the designated hospital being too poor to the point that a helicopter could not land at the hospital or the nearby Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, any on-track running must be suspended.
Image via XPB Images