The most important practice session of the Chinese GP weekend is the second free practice session (FP2), as it starts at the same hour as the qualifying session and the race. It showed the top teams are very close in performance. The fastest time was a 1:33.482s set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes W09. The Briton also topped the first practice session (FPI).
Lewis Hamilton Fastest In FP2, But Ferrari Inch Closer
With relatively cold temperatures, teams were able to bolt on Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres and study its behavior on the track. Hamilton dominated the early stages on the soft tyres, but Kimi Raikkonen put a flying lap to move to the top of the timesheets.
Raikkonen’s lead was blown away after the Mercedes drivers went out on the purple-striped ultrasoft tyres for the first time this weekend. Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topped the time sheets, half a second faster than Raikkonen. The flying Finn returned to the second position and finished only 0.007 seconds off Hamilton’s pace.
Valtteri Bottas was third and Sebastian Vettel fourth in the Mercedes vs Ferrari clash, just 0.108s behind the leader.
With forty minutes on the clock, the teams moved to the long run simulations. With cars running on heavy loads of fuel, it was Hamilton who clocked the fastest times consistently. But it was another close battle between the top teams, with very little differentating them on race pace. Force India-Mercedes had a good performance in the long runs too.
Rain made its presence felt
With twenty-five minutes left, radio messages alerted the drivers about some light rain on the way. With ten minutes to go, the alert became reality and the raindrops fell on the Shanghai International Circuit.
Most of the teams wrapped up their session at this point. But McLaren-Renault did send Fernando Alonso out on the circuit on intermediate tyres for an outlap. Force India did the same with Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman completed a lap (1:51.665s). Pérez ended six-tenths off his teammate’s pace. Sauber‘s Marcus Ericsson hit the track but spun off.
There has been many incidents of unsafe releases so far this season. At the end of FP2, Stoffel Vandoorne pulled his McLaren to the side of the track because of a suspected loose right-rear wheel.
Free Practice 2 Results:
|5||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:33.823||+0.341s||26|
|9||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:34.557||+1.075s||26|
|11||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:34.792||+1.310s||30|
|12||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:34.849||+1.367s||33|
|13||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:34.874||+1.392s||30|
|15||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:35.333||+1.851s||37|
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