China FP2: Bottas from Vettel and it’s close

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas topped the timing screens at the end of the first day of free practice of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Round 3 of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship, at Shanghai International Circuit.

Bottas set a best lap of 1:33.330 which was enough to keep him top of the timing screens at the end of FP2, a couple of hundredths faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen third quickest, two tenths down on the top time and suggesting a threeway team battle for top honours on Sunday.

It was not all good news for Verstappen as late in the session he reported that “something is not right” while suggesting over the radio a problem with his clutch.

Lewis Hamilton survived a spin to set the fourth fastest time, seven-tenths down on his teammate at the top of the timesheets. However, it should be noted the reigning F1 World Champion was baulked during his hot lap when Romain Grosjean’s Haas parted company with its front wing.

It was an unhappy session for Charles Leclerc who only managed 13 laps during when drivers were doing around 30 or more laps during the 90-minutes. His team reported that the #16 Ferrari suffered “a cooling issue” which curtailed its running. He was seventh nevertheless.

Renault found handy pace with all four cars using their PUs in the top ten, Nico Hulkenberg fastest of the quartet in fifth, followed by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz in sixth.

Lando Norris was eighth in the other McLaren and Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo ninth, and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly rounding out the top ten, the Frenchman an alarming nine-tenths shy of his teammate Verstappen.

A mere three-tenths separated Hulkenberg in sixth and Gasly in tenth. Also, noteworthy was the fact that the gap between the Big Three and Best of the Rest was down to seven tenths.