Chinese GP | FP1 stopped then topped by Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen tops first free practice for Red Bull at the Chinese Grand Prix.

With a thick layer of cloud smothering the Shanghai International Circuit, the red flags were out and the session was stopped for 40-minutes. But when the cloud lifted, Verstappen went fastest on the wet track. Edging Massa by 1.5-seconds before the cloud returned and closed the designated local hospital.

The session had been underway a mere five-minutes before the red flags halted any immediate running. With the medical helicopter ‘not able to operate’ amidst the thick cloud engulfing the track.

Although the cloud was not preventing the helicopter from taking off at the circuit, the cloud layer did mean the medical helicopter could not land at the designated hospital. Thus not meeting the necessary safety requirments in order for cars to hit the track.

The layer of clouds mainly, however, had not actually developed extensively during the five-minutes FP1 was underway. Leading to the question; why was the session even started? For the moment the green light came on, the clock began to tick. And with every minute the red flags stayed out, a minute of running was taken away.

Of course, the gaps between each Formula One session are standardised for every circuit due to the support races and rest times for all staff. With each Grand Prix’s support races varying in quantity and time needed to complete the races.

Those minutes lost under the red flags, however, did mean lost minutes of getting out on track in the wet conditions. Losing out on all data gathering ahead of an expected wet race on Sunday.

Magnussen waiting for red flag to end FP1 ChinGP - Haas

Kevin Magnussen sits waiting for the red flags to end and FP1 to get back underway. Photo credit: Haas F1 Team.

Prior to the red flag, Haas had broken the silence by sending Romain Grosjean out onto the track. Continuing on from Australia, and again when the track went green as Magnussen took on the inters and slid onto the circuit.

Unfortunately for Magnussen, sliding for him continued as his running got underway with a spin at turn nine. Facing the wrong direction, though, did not prevent the Dane from feeling confident on the inters.

On the other hand, the session being back underway meant the drivers and teams could get back to learning how the wet tyres handle on track. For going into the new season, there had been just one part-wet session in pre-season testing on the new Pirelli compounds.

Magnussen was not alone in spinning in Shanghai, with Nico Hulkenberg losing the rear at turn three before beaching his Renault in the gravel trap.

As soon as Hulkenberg’s Renault snapped on him, there was no saving the car like Ricciardo found in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. But, unlike the Australian, the Renault driver slowed in time to prevent contact with the barrier and any subsequent rebuilding work.

Prior to Hulkenberg’s spin and the Virtual Safety Car that followed, times had begun appearing on the leaderboard wth Lance Stroll setting the early pace from Alonso and Grosjean.

Verstappen soon lowered the benchmark from the rookie by two-seconds. But before any further running could be done, red flags returned as cloud cover intensified and grounded the medical helicopter once more.

Not only could the medical helicopter again not land at the designated hospital in Shanghai. But the worsening weather conditions now forced the closer of the local airport.

Pos Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 4 1:50.491
2 Felipe Massa Williams 7 1:52.086 1.595
3 Lance Stroll Williams 7 1:52.507 2.016
4 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 5 1:52.840 2.349
5 Romain Grosjean Haas 6 1:53.039 2.548
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 4 1:53.314 2.823
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 5 1:53.520 3.029
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 7 1:54.038 3.547
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 4 1:54.664 4.173
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 8 1:55.104 4.613
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 6 1:55.608 5.117
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 4 1:57.445 6.954
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 4 2:15.138 24.647
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 4 2:15.281 24.79
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault 3 No time set
16 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 2 No time set
17 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1 No time set
18 Esteban Ocon Force India 2 No time set
19 Sergio Perez Force India 3 No time set
20 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2 No time set