Hamilton completes clean sweep in practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, with Rosberg closest in FP3

Lewis Hamilton tops final free practice at the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of Nico Rosberg and the two Ferrari’s.

Going into qualifying, Hamilton has the edge over the field after topping the final free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix. When teams and drivers looked for their qualifying set ups, Lewis found the time to lap the Shanghai International Circuit quicker than all. But Rosberg came in second place, just two tenths of a second back in a session with another McLaren engine issue.

Yesterday was very much Lewis’ day after topping both FP1 and FP2 while Rosberg failed to provide his team mate with a challenge. But across both sessions there was a constant threat from Ferrari, as the Italian team continues to challenge the world champions.

Elsewhere, Red Bull and McLaren both looked to have made improvements over the short break since Malaysia. But Red Bull’s development comes after owner, Dietrich Mateschitz issued his first public threat of puling out of F1.

As for McLaren, their improvements on Friday meant nothing in the first two minutes of FP3, when Fernando Alonso came cruising to a stop on his out lap. As Alonso exited the cockpit, smoke was exiting the rear of his car as the Spaniard suffered an early exit from practice down to another power unit issue. Going into the weekend, McLaren have already had to use an almost completely new power unit. At the current rate they’re going through their engines, and with just four power units for the season, the team will find themselves taking grid penalties when we hit Europe in a few rounds time.

Alonso’s car was swiftly moved to a safe location off track, and after most drivers had returned to their garages after their installation laps, Ericsson posted the first timed lap of the session. No matter how quick his lap was, it would never remain at the top for the duration of the session after being posted on the medium tyres, but his 1:42.174 showed relatively decent mid-field pace. Even if Nasr beat his team mates time by 3 hundredths of a second moments later.

When the suspected challengers for the win come Sunday hit the line to post their times, Vettel initially moved into P1. The German managed to go fastest of all in both sectors one and two on his way to a 1:40.713. But Nico Rosberg pushed Seb down the order moments later, after he posted a 1:40.055.

As they continued to try and find time around the Shanghai circuit, Raikkonen joined the party at the top to slot in behind his team mate. But Vettel swiftly improved to close the gap to Rosberg, yet it was Hamilton who hammered home the next table topping time. Lewis’ lap was fast enough to take the top spot by nearly three tenths of a second to Rosberg.

For Williams things continued to appear far from how they would like, with the team yet to provide the front runners with a challenge yet this season. But today’s latest issue was something other than their lack of speed compared to Ferrari and Mercedes. Instead Massa was reporting smoke coming from his Williams as he entered the top 5 on the time sheet come the mid way mark.

Yesterday as drivers attempted to find their braking points and fastest lines, a lot of them found themselves running deep into corners or spinning. But despite yesterday’s three hours of running, drivers continued to struggle to keep their cars on track today. But with 20 minutes left of the session, it was time for drivers to switch out the medium tyres and bolt on the option, soft compound as qualifying times became the focus.

Kvyat was the first man to switch tyre compounds and instantly moved into P1. The Red Bull driver managed to go six tenths of a second clear of Hamilton’s early benchmark time after going quicker in the middle and final sector. But when Rosberg carried out his first option tyre lap, the Mercedes was back on top by 1.2 seconds. Nico also posted purple times in each sector as he made his way to a 1:37.841.

But Lewis would go on to reclaim P1 on the leaderboard when he posted his first option tyre flying lap. This time around Lewis regained the lead by two tenths to his team mate, and posted purple times in the first and middle sectors.

Down at Williams, their apparent lack of pace was clear to see once more. As when Massa hit the line on the soft tyres to post a 1:39.410 and move into fifth place, he sat at a whopping 1.7 seconds back on Hamilton. Between himself and the two Mercedes also sat both Red Bulls, as his team mate sat down in tenth.

At the time, the two Ferrari’s had not posted a time on the soft tyres. But when Vettel eventually did, he moved into third with five minutes remaining. Raikkonen swiftly came home to go fourth, two tenths down on his team mate and almost nine tenths down on Lewis.

By now the Red Bull of Ricciardo was back in the garage with all four tyres off the car. What was on the car were fans directed at the brakes once again after yesterday’s overheating issue lead to Kvyat’s brake catching fire. As for Kvyat, when the chequered flag fell he was told to use the brakes to a minimal amount as the team continues to suffer brake issues.

The chequered flag also fell to mark the end of another session topped by Lewis Hamilton. The Briton has now carried out a clean sweep of table topping times in practice for this years Chinese Grand Prix. Clearly good form for the Brit going into qualifying. But Rosberg managed to provide Lewis with a close challenge on the soft tyres, while Ferrari sit closely in third and fourth.

  1. Hamilton 1:37.615 (14 laps)
  2. Rosberg +0.226
  3. Vettel +0.698
  4. Raikkonen +0.896
  5. Ricciardo  +1.405
  6. Kvyat +1.491
  7. Sainz +1.498
  8. Bottas +1.628
  9. Verstappen +1.659
  10. Grosjean +1.790
  11. Massa +1.795
  12. Hulkenberg +1.898
  13. Ericsson +1.944
  14. Nasr +1.976
  15. Button +2.079
  16. Maldonado +2.151
  17. Perez +2.166
  18. Stevens +5.313
  19. Merhi +7.341
  20. Alonso (No time set)