Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the first practice for this weekends Chinese Grand Prix. The German was two tenths faster than his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, however, the Englishman didn’t set his fastest time on the softest tyre compound.
Vettel went into this weekend admitted that he “can do better” the strong start to the weekend is one he needs following his difficult start to the season. His teammate Charles Leclerc was third fastest, as expected he set his time also on the mediums rather than the quicker soft compound.
As expected, Ferrari is expected to be stronger than Mercedes as the long straights in Shanghai. Vettel soon surged ahead while running a harder compound of tyre than Hamilton, who closed out the session fractionally faster than Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes. The Dutchman’s time was only two tenths slower than Hamilton on the same tyre. Teammate Pierre Gasly, however, despite running the same tyre as Vettel could only go seventh fastest.
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest, as the Renault driver looks to turn around his difficult start to the year. Employing a new engine and the soft tyre he moved into sixth, ahead of Gasly. All four Renault powered cars have moved onto at least one of their second engine components.
Renault gave Nico Hulkenberg an entirely new power unit package (ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K and turbocharger) and Ricciardo a new MGU-K, while McLaren’s Lando Norris also took on a new MGU-K. Norris’s team-mate Carlos Sainz got the revised component in Bahrain after his failure in Australia.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat went eighth ahead of the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, despite the Canadian spinning at the final corner. Both set there fastest time on medium tyres, going ahead of Romain Grosjean in tenth.
Grosjean set his fastest time to go a hundredth faster than his teammate Kevin Magnussen. The midfield once again appeared to be close with a second between sixth and seventeenth, also what more telling is the closeness between Haas, Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren was less than half a second.
Alfa Romeo has taken an early lead in the midfield battle for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship but they experienced a difficult Friday morning in Shanghai.
Kimi Raikkonen could only go fifteenth in the Alfa, behind Lando Norris’s McLaren and Alexander Albon’s Toro Rosso. An engine installation problem restricted Antonio Giovinazzi to just two untimed laps.