Chinese GP FP1: Stroll tops fire-interrupted session

Chinese GP FP1: Stroll tops fire-interrupted session

Chinese GP FP1: Stroll tops fire-interrupted session

Lance Stroll topped the first and only practice session for the Formula 1 Chinese GP that was briefly interrupted by the grass igniting on the side of the track.

Yes what you read was right, and your eyes aren’t tricking at this early time of the day, but FP1 was Red flagged because the grass at Turn 7 simply caught fire and had to be extinguished before action resumed. Why? It’s anyone’s guess for now.

Being the only practice session this Chinese GP weekend, there was more emphasis on doing some proper running as the second order of the day would be the Sprint qualifying.

Somehow, it was a bizarre session, as the track was evolving and the times kept dropping with every run as the grip increased but it means in Sprint qualifying next, the advantage will belong to the driver that posts his best time as late as possible.

While Stroll was the fastest at the end of the session, the Red Bull most probably didn’t lose their speed, despite Max Verstappen who was third fastest failing to put a decent lap together. Oscar Piastri was second fastest.

The Ferraris also did not feature in the to ten as well as both Mercedes and while the former have not showed their full potential, it will always be interesting to see whether the latter can get a decent understanding of their W15 this weekend.

Buildup towards FP1

For the first time since 2019, F1 is back in China, and it will be the first time the ground effect F1 cars – with their new 18″ tyres – race around the Shanghai International Circuit, not the mention that it will also be the first time a Sprint weekend is held at the returning venue.

So things will be tricky for teams and drivers with just one hour of practice available to collect as much data as possible before it got serious for the Sprint qualifying.

And take make matters worse, the track seems to have been given a Bitumen treatment, which will throw the teams off even more in terms of trying to predict how the grip will be.

As a note, Bitumen is a substance produced through the distillation of crude oil that is known for its waterproofing and adhesive properties. It is applied in fluid form on the track surface to help bind with the surface of the existing circuit. It helps eliminate dust, improves waterproofing and also prevent disintegration of the track.

The final corner has been revised with a small gravel strip added.

Other than that, Red Bull arrive in Shanghai on a high after their one-two in Japan two weeks ago, but we can only hope that the many variables and unknowns will make the racing more interesting this weekend.

It the first time we have a Chinese driver – Zhou Guanyu – racing in China, a historic moment for the driver, his country, and his home fans, too bad he is driving a Sauber.

As for the tyres, Pirelli has brought the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium), C4 (Soft) compounds this weekend.

FP1 Session Highlights

Some teams brought upgrades this weekend’s Chinese GP, Mercedes having a revised Halo with a small flick added either side of the cockpit behind the Halo to which should create a vortex to improve air flow to the rear.

Alpine have a new floor body (revised diffuser letterbox in the diffuser sidewall), new floor edge and floor fences, while Williams also have a revised Halo with an updated forward Geometry.

RB had a new headrest, as the team have reshaped the area of the headrest behind the driver’s helmet.

Haas have a considerable upgrade with a new a new floor edge, new floor fences, a revised coke/engine cover, a revised rear corner and new mirrors.

The session started dry conditions, slight overcast, with track temperature at 39 degrees Celsius while the ambient temperature at 23 degrees.

The teams opted for a mixture of tyre compound as all three compound were on show at the start of the session, as soon Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez had a couple of moments out on track, while Zhou reported that the grip was not high but not bad.

12 minutes into the sessions both Ferraris finally made their way to the track. The Red cars had the red-walled tyres, going for their qualifying runs immediately.

15 minutes into the session the Red Flag was brought out. Why? because the grass into Turn 7 ignited and was on fire!!

The session was soon restarted after the fire was extinguished and Alex Albon led the drivers out on track.

With 35 minutes remaining, George Russell finally decided to put in a timed lap, on Hards but is 20th.

Replay showed Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg had a small racing moment the former trying to find a gap to start his lap but then he got a Black and White flag for crossing the line at pit entry as he was fighting for the same piece of McLaren’s Piastri as well who pushed him back into the pits forcing his error.

Carlos Sainz has also been in the pits having his floor checked after hitting the kerbs hard in Turn 10 throwing up some gravel.

With 16 minutes remaining, Fernando Alonso lost his way going into the pits after locking up and went into an access point, he didn’t get lost though and found his way back. Piastri soon does the same.

In the final ten minutes the qualifying runs started in earnest and the times started dropping. Perez had a slight moment locking up at Turn 6 but stays on track, as Hamilton does the same in the same place but ends up in the run-off area.

The session was concluded with practice starts.

How they finished

Stroll clocked a 1:36.302 to go fastest, 0.327s ahead of Piastri in second with Verstappen 0.031s further down the road in third.

Perez was fourth fastest in the other Red Bull, 0.030s off the pace of his teammate and 0.411s ahead of Hulkenberg, fifth fastest in the Haas.

Kevin Magnussen was sixth fastest in the other Haas, seemingly the upgraded VF-24 being a marked improvement.

Esteban Ocon was seventh fastest in the Alpine, 0.911s off the pace and 0.016s ahead of Albon, eighth fastest in the Williams.

Daniel Ricciardo, in a new chassis, was ninth fastest for RB. Yuki Tsunoda was 12th.

Valtteri Bottas was tenth fastest in the Sauber, 1.228s off the pace, while the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sainz did not show their pace and were 13th and 14th respectively.

Chinese GP FP1 Classification