Sebastian Vettel aimed to show no ill effects from a mistake-hit outing in Bahrain less than two weeks ago by posting the fastest time in the opening practice session of the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

With the event being celebrated as the 1,000th World Championship event, the Ferrari pilot ended the session 0.2 seconds clear of the Mercedes of arch-rival Lewis Hamilton. What will no doubt please Vettel is that his fastest time in the session was posted on the Medium (C3) Pirelli tyre compound, while Hamilton’s slower time came on the quicker Soft (C4) rubber.

Whether this is truly indicative of a Ferrari performance advantage remains to be seen. Behind the top-two came Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc, who lapped less than five-hundredths of a second slower than Hamilton. The Monégasque driver, who was cruelly denied victory last time out in Bahrain when his MGU-H short-circuited, finished less than 0.2 seconds ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas a further three-tenths adrift.

Defending Chinese Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping he can return to form after a nightmare start to his career as a Renault factory driver. The Australian – sporting an eye-catching helmet design that pays tribute to Sir Jack Brabham – ended FP1 ‘best of the rest’ in sixth place on the time sheets, albeit over 1.3 seconds off Vettel’s ultimate pace.

Finishing behind Ricciardo in P7 was the man who took over his Red Bull Racing seat: Pierre Gasly. The French driver did not run on the soft Pirelli tyres during the session and was over a second slower than teammate Verstappen as a result. He finished ahead of Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Lance Stroll (Racing Point) and Romain Grosjean (Haas), who rounded out the top ten and were separated by just 0.06 seconds.

Stroll provided one of the few incidents of note when he spun his RP19 across the track at the final corner in the early minutes of the session, but was able to continue.

Antonio Giovinazzi only managed one installation lap in his Alfa Romeo, with the team discovering an engine installation issue that took the rest of the session to solve.

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:33.911 19
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:34.114 + 0.207 21
3. Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari SF90 1:34.167 + 0.256 21
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RB15 1:34.334 + 0.423 20
5. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10 1:34.653 + 0.742 23
6. Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team RS19 1:35.239 + 1.328 23
7. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing RB15 1:35.428 + 1.517 23
8. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:35.447 + 1.536 24
9. Lance Stroll Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:35.466 + 1.555 25
10. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:35.507 + 1.596 24
11. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team VF-19 1:35.517 + 1.606 25
12. Nico Hülkenberg Renault F1 Team RS19 1:35.591 + 1.680 22
13. Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:35.631 + 1.720 24
14. Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14 1:35.695 + 1.784 26
15. Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing C38 1:35.729 + 1.818 23
16. Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team MCL34 1:35.756 + 1.845 24
17. Sergio Pérez Racing Point F1 Team RP19 1:35.820 + 1.909 24
18. Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:36.847 + 2.936 27
19. George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing FW42 1:37.619 + 3.708 29
20. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing C38 no time 1

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.