Sebastian Vettel took Ferrari to the top of the timesheets for the first time in the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix in a final practice session blighted by dramas for Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo.
The German led a Ferrari 1-2, almost half a second clear of teammate Kimi Räikkönen in the field’s final hit-out before Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session.
While the Ferraris running was seemingly trouble-free in the one-hour session, the same could not be said for Vettel’s chief championship rival Lewis Hamilton or his former Red Bul lRacing teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
The Australian posted just four laps before his RB14 was forced to pull off the circuit with smoke pouring from the rear of the car. Coming less than a week after the Australian’s retirement from the previous Bahrain Grand Prix with an energy store failure, his latest stoppage was triggered by a suspected turbo failure. The Milton Keynes outfit now faces a race against time to have his car ready in time for the afternoon’s qualifying session.
Issues with the TAG Heuer-badged Renault engines were not isolated to Ricciardo, however, as his teammate Max Verstappen – who finished the session fourth-fastest – complained of a loss of top end power. The Dutchman likened the feeling to the behaviour of his car in the lead-up to his retirement from last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Track conditions were tricky once again, with strong wind gusts upsetting many cars’ handling and Friday afternoon’s rain showers leaving many Astroturf sections of run-off still clogged with water.
Hamilton was one such driver to come to grief in the conditions, looping his Mercedes into a wild spin at the exit of the Turn 9/10 double left-hander. He came to a rest facing the wrong way on the racing line but was able to gather up his car and resume running. The defending World Champion finished the session fifth-fastest, over a second off Vettel’s ultimate pace.
Romain Grosjean was another driver to spin during the session, although the Frenchman’s troubles could largely be put down to overheating brakes – an issue which plagues him in 2017 – that subsequently forced him to abandon his session with just six laps under his belt.
Grosjean’s Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen took advantage of Ricciardo’s abovementioned dramas to finish the session sixth-fastest
The two Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon showed positive signs by finishing seventh- and eighth-quickest respectively, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr’s Renault.
Sergey Sirotkin defied his Williams’ lack of pace to finish tenth-fastest.
Qualifying gets underway at 13:00 local time (GMT +8).
|FORMULA 1 2018 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3 TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:33.018||14|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:33.469||+ 0.451||21|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:33.761||+ 0.743||16|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:33.969||+ 0.951||14|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:34.057||+ 1.039||14|
|6.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:34.329||+ 1.311||25|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:34.445||+ 1.427||14|
|8.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:34.456||+ 1.438||16|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:34.582||+ 1.564||20|
|10.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:35.741||+ 1.723||13|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:34.841||+ 1.823||16|
|12.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:34.851||+ 1.833||13|
|13.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:34.977||+ 1.959||16|
|14.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:34.991||+ 1.973||20|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:35.061||+ 2.043||4|
|16.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:35.079||+ 2.061||16|
|17.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:35.375||+ 2.357||16|
|18.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:35.497||+ 2.479||14|
|19.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:35.679||+ 2.661||13|
|20.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:35.756||+ 2.738||6|
Images via Scuderia Ferrari and Sutton Images