Mercedes and Ferrari went toe-to-toe in Friday’s second practice for the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix and by the end of 90 minutes of track time the two teams were split by one-tenth of a second on the stopwatch.
Lewis Hamilton, fastest in Friday’s opening practice session at the Shanghai International Circuit, emerged fastest overall – but only just – edging out Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen by just 0.007 seconds, while the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was only 0.033 seconds slower than the Englishman.
Räikkönen set the early pace on Pirelli’s Soft tyre compound, outpacing Hamilton by one-tenth of a second.
Hamilton then went for a qualifying-style run on Ultrasoft tyres at the half-hour mark and moved to the top of the timesheets. His first run saw him venture off-track after a lock-up when he tried to get past Force India’s Esteban Ocon, but he bounced back to post a 1:33.482 lap time which featured an oversteer moment at the last corner.
Räikkönen’s qualifying simulation run came later in the session, with the Finn ending up just seven-thousandths of a second slower to bump Bottas into third on the time sheets. The 2007 World Champion would probably have claimed the fastest overall lap if he didn’t come across Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber at Turn 11 – while he was able to overtake around the outside of the Swede, it was probably enough to ensure he would not beat Hamilton’s time.
Fourth-fastest was the second Ferrari of championship leader Sebastian Vettel, whose quickest lap was just 0.108 seconds slower than Hamilton’s effort.
Max Verstappen finished the session fifth-fastest in his Red Bull Racing RB14, 0.341 seconds off Hamilton’s ultimate pace. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo had a tougher session and complained of throttle pedal mapping and braking problems; the Australian could only manage ninth-fastest in the session.
The two Renaults managed to get inside one second of the fastest time, with Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. sandwiching Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten in his McLaren Renault, 1.150 seconds off the pace. The Spaniard’s quickest lap came with the assistance of a slipstream from teammate Stoffel Vandoorne down the Shanghai circuit’s 1.1-kilometre back straight. Vandoorne finished up fourteenth-fastest, stopping on track with a loose wheel with 15 minutes of the session to run.
The two Force Indias were solidly in the midfield, with Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon sandwiching the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly who was twelfth-fastest. The three cars were covered by less than one-tenth of a second.
The bottom of the timesheets were occupied by Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Williams’ Lance Stroll, who both had spins on their qualifying-style runs. Grosjean lost his VF-18 at Turn 11 and had a spin into the run-off, while Stroll’s spin came at Turn 8.
A light rain shower hit the circuit in the closing minutes of the session, prompting a number of drivers to venture out on Intermediate tyres to gather data given there is a chance of further showers on Saturday.
Marcus Ericsson had a spin on the damp track at the hairpin in the final minute of the session, reportedly due to a brake mapping issue.
|FORMULA 1 2018 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2 TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:33.482||26|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:33.489||+ 0.007||26|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:33.515||+ 0.033||27|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:33.590||+ 0.108||27|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:33.823||+ 0.341||26|
|6.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:34.313||+ 0.831||30|
|7.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:34.458||+ 0.976||26|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:34.473||+ 0.991||28|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:34.557||+ 1.075||26|
|10.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:34.632||+ 1.150||23|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:34.792||+ 1.310||30|
|12.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:34.849||+ 1.367||33|
|13.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:34.874||+ 1.392||30|
|14.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:35.163||+ 1.681||21|
|15.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:35.333||+ 1.851||37|
|16.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:35.340||+ 1.858||31|
|17.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:35.624||+ 2.142||29|
|18.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:35.916||+ 2.434||26|
|19.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:36.471||+ 2.989||26|
|20.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:37.147||+ 3.665||19|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team