Lewis Hamilton takes first free practice ahead of Chinese Grand Prix
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News April 12, 2018 Updated: 9:53 PM PT
SHANGHAI, China -- Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton got down to business as he took the top spot in the opening practice session ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. After a difficult time at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton still made use of the cards he was dealt and minimized his deficit in the championship to seventeen points.
“It’s good to see all the times so close, but it means that we really need to bring our A game. We need everyone in the team to be on it throughout the weekend because it is a joint effort,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton finished with a time of 1:33.999 on the soft tire (Yellow band) but had a small spin at Turn 11 during the session. Hamilton ended the session 0.359s ahead of Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen with fellow Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas in third. Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth and 0.131s ahead of teammate Max Verstappen in fifth.
Verstappen had a close call with the barriers after running wide on the final corner on his flying lap. After coming off a big win in Bahrain last week, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel only finished sixth and was 0.862s off Hamilton.
“I think at this track it is very important to find the right feeling with the car and its setup. The track is long and the tires struggle here. But, overall, I think we are quite close. However, the car is not yet where I want it to be. So, we are still looking at how we can improve,” said Vettel.
Kevin Magnussen finished seventh as the American team hopes to continue their strong form this season. Renault’s Carlos Sainz took eighth splitting the Haas drivers with Magnussen’s teammate Romain Grosjean splitting the Renault’s in ninth and Sainz’ teammate Nico Hulkenberg in tenth.
Outside the top ten, Toro Rosso, who who pulled an incredible result last week with driver Pierre Gasly, finished 11th as the team took the session to test new parts they this weekend.
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso ended the morning session 12th with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in 13th and 14th as they continue the development work they started last week. Sergey Sirotkin finished 15th ahead of Gasly’s teammate Brendon Hartley in 16th. After Hartley’s encounter with a bird in Bahrain that damaged his front wing, the team focused on aerodynamic work for most of the session.
Sauber rookie driver Charles Leclerc finished 17th ahead Stoffel Vandoorne in the second McLaren in 18th who had a spin at Turn 10 that sent has car into the gravel, nearly missing the wall. Leclerc’s teammate Marcus Ericsson ended the first session in 19 with Lance Stroll taking the final spot on the timesheet in 20th.