SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 13: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 13, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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.

Pitstop Blunders

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:

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:33.482 26
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:33.489 +0.007s 26
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:33.515 +0.033s 27
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:33.590 +0.108s 27
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:33.823 +0.341s 26
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.313 +0.831s 30
7 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:34.458 +0.976s 26
8 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:34.473 +0.991s 28
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.557 +1.075s 26
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:34.632 +1.150s 23
11 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.792 +1.310s 30
12 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.849 +1.367s 33
13 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.874 +1.392s 30
14 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.163 +1.681s 22
15 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:35.333 +1.851s 37
16 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.340 +1.858s 31
17 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.624 +2.142s 29
18 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.916 +2.434s 26
19 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:36.471 +2.989s 26
20 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:37.147 +3.665s 19

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