Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes top back to back practice sessions at the Chinese Grand Prix, with Ricciardo appearing in the top three.
After a short break between sessions, Mercedes were back on top in China when the teams focused on race pace in FP2. This time round, Hamilton found the time on the soft tyres and topped the session 4 tenths of a second clear of Raikkonen, while Rosberg fell back down the order and Ricciardo moved up to third.
Back in the opening practice session, Lewis lapped the Shanghai International Circuit half a second clear of Rosberg, while Vettel snuck in front of Raikkonen to claim third.
But come the green light for FP2, Merhi once again hit the track first before being followed onto the circuit by his team-mate. When the two hit the track in FP1, it was the first time this season both Marussia’s were on the track at the same time.
Over the early timed laps, Vettel tried to attack turn four but the German drifted out into the gravel and sent his Ferrari for a spin. Vettel managed to continue on his way but in the other Ferrari, Raikkonen was complaining about a brake issue causing his car to pull side to side when he applied the brakes.
As for McLaren, a strong start for the struggling team saw Alonso reach fourth. But when Mercedes began to fly, the McLaren’s dropped back slightly.
First across the line for Mercedes came Nico Rosberg who moved into P1 with a clear improvement on his FP1 time. However when Lewis crossed the line moments later, he pipped his team mate by just 0.068 seconds after finding heaps of time in the middle sector.
Shortly after Hamilton posted his lap time, a spectator darted across the pit straight after appearing from the main grandstand. The track invader made a swift dart across the straight, slotting into a gap between two full speed, Formula One cars before leaping into the pit straight. When the man was caught by police, it is believed that he ‘wanted to try a car’ and made it into the Ferrari garage according to Ian Parkes of the Press Association.
On track action was never halted however, and the early times were soon irrelevant as out went the medium compounds and in came the softs. For Raikkonen, the option tyres gave him a 2 and a half second improvement to move clear of the field in P1. As for Vettel, he found 2 seconds to move into second place. But the German remained six tenths down on his team mate.
As for the Mercedes duo as they looked to reclaim the top spots, Rosberg flew across the line but was only able to slot in behind Raikkonen after Nico ran wide on the final corner causing him to lose speed and his chance to go back on top. Hamilton on the other hand found 1.8 seconds on the soft tyres to regain P1 by four tenths of a second.
With Hamilton topping the order from Raikkonen, Vettel and Rosberg, Massa found himself getting out of his Williams at the hairpin. The Brazilian was attacking the track on a flying lap but as he applied the brakes for turn 14, his car snapped to the left and sent him cruising into the run-off area. However the big, screeching, lock up caused Massa to lose full control and his car clipped the barrier to his left causing him to take front wing damage and retire from the session. His crash also brought out the first red flag of the weekend.
When the session restarted at the half way mark, long runs were the main topic on track. As Mercedes split their simulation work over the two cars, only Rosberg’s times on the mediums could be compared to the Ferrari’s who both hit the track on the prime compound tyres. Over the course of Nico’s run, his times were consistent in the 1:43’s however Raikkonen was faster out of the block.
If this is a clue to the result come Sunday, Ferrari may be able to challenge for another win despite it only being the third round and they targeted just two Grand Prix victories for the year.
As for Vettel’s former team, Red Bull, they continued to have troubles with their Brembo brakes. The team changed brake suppliers after the Malaysian Grand Prix and struggled with temperatures in FP1 earlier today. During the session, Red Bull mechanics had to spend minutes standing by the side of Ricciardo’s car cooling the brakes down with fans. Later in the day and as the end of FP2 approached, the brake temperature issue returned but this time on Kvyat’s car after the team called him into the box for a front wing angle change. As he pulled away to return to the track, Kvyat’s rear left brake caught on fire and the team informed the young Russian to coast bake around the track. This may have been the wrong call by the team as he was unable to make it all the way back around the track after loosing all ability to apply the brake and crashed out of the session.
But out in front, Hamilton’s fastest lap time on the soft tyres saw no challenge after the red flag and long runs being the order of the session. Rosberg also found himself ending the session down in fifth place with both Ferrari’s and surprisingly Ricciardo’s Red Bull ahead.
Ricciardo snuck into the top three late into the session after limited running and a short race simulation run. Kvyat’s best time before his session came to an abrupt end was good enough for sixth place, four tenths down on Rosberg.
Marussia struggled in FP1 and finished in 19th and 20th with neither car anywhere near close to 18th place. Back then Will Stevens’ best lap time was just within 107% of Hamilton’s best lap time. However Merhi was unable to get within 107%, and ended the session 107.48% down on Hamilton. Come the second free practice session and the roles were reversed with Merhi posting the faster lap between the two. However Steven’s session was forced to come to an early end after just eight laps.
- Hamilton 1:37:219 (32 laps)
- Raikkonen 1:37:662 (35 laps – most)
- Ricciardo 1:38:311
- Vettel 1:38:339
- Rosberg 1:38:399 (35 laps – most)
- Kvyat 1:38:737
- Bottas 1:38:850
- Nasr 1:39:032
- Grosjean 1:39:142
- Button 1:39:275
- Maldonado 1:39:444
- Alonso 1:39:743
- Ericsson 1:39:751
- Verstappen 1:39:894
- Sainz 1:39:971
- Hulkenberg 1:40:151
- Massa 1:40:423 (7 laps – least)
- Perez 1:40:868
- Merhi 1:42:973
- Stevens 1:44:564
GIF of the track invader at the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix credit: Cubejam/Reddit