Friday’s Free Practice Sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix have been heavily disrupted by persistent thick fog and rain, meaning the drivers only managed 20 minutes of running in Free Practice One, and no running at all in Free Practice Two.
The thick fog and rain storm surrounding the city on this dank and overcast day mean that the medical helicopter at the circuit was grounded due to the fact it would be unable to land at the nearest hospital, some 38km away in downtown Shanghai, if there was a medical emergency. When this happens it is standard procedure to suspend the session until the medical helicopter can take off. This recently happened at the 2015 USA Grand Prix when a hurricane hitting Texas meant the helicopter couldn’t take off. Resulting in a 45 minute delay to a Free Practice session that ultimately ended up not happening, much like in china today. The lack of running today means that the teams will head into the weekend without any significant track time behind them, and more important no real usable data. As well as this it’s going to be hard to predict the pecking order for the weekend, as we have no idea where teams are relative to one another.
After an initial delay in the morning, some drivers did complete around 20 minutes of running on intermediate tyres in FP1 before the red flag was thrown again. The session ended with no more running, and there was no running completed in Practice Two as conditions failed to improve. Basically there were a lot of bored drivers and teams in the pitlane looking to the sky and hoping conditions would improve, to no avail though.
In the short running that did take place in FP1, Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull ahead of Williams pair Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll. Even with just twenty minutes of running there was a bit of drama, as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg spun into the gravel at Turn Two. Luckily for the team the German driver did not make contact with the barrier, but as his race engineer bluntly informed him over the radio: “You aint getting out of there mate.”
Of the 20 drivers on the grid 6 failed to set a time, and arguably no one really set a competitive time, during the twenty minutes. Drivers who failed to set a time include Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Australian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel. In fact, the only time Hamilton ventured out of the pit lane was on foot when he headed to the main grandstand during FP2 to hand out some signed caps to fans.
The weather does not look set to improve throughout the weekend, with the rain set to be a feature especially on Sunday, creating the possibility of more disruption to the Grand Prix schedule if the medical helicopter cannot fly. All we can hope now is that whichever idiot in the paddock decided to do a rain dance, stops now for the hope of better running tomorrow.
Chinese GP Free Practice One Timesheet
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:50.491
2. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 1.595
3. Lance Stroll, Williams, + 2.016
4. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 2.349
5. Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 2.548
6. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 2.823
7. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 3.029
8. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 3.547
9. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, + 4.173
10. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, + 4.613
11. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, + 5.117
12. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, + 6.954
13. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 24.647
14. Antonio Giovinazzi, Sauber, + 24.790
15. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, No time
16. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, No time
17. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, No time
18. Esteban Ocon, Force India, No time
19. Sergio Perez, Force India, No time
20. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, No time
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release.