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.
|FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1|
|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|
Image via Formula1.com