W hen Friday is a good pointer for Sunday, then the GP China could also be a good race. The first 5 drivers stagger each other on a lap within 0.341 seconds. Mercedes just ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull. Ferrari loses its time in the corners and brings it back on the straights. “We are only slower than Ferrari in turns 1 and 2. All other corners belong to us, ”reads Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff from the GPS measurements. Like in Bahrain, Ferrari is ahead on the straights. In terms of engine power, the pendulum has turned towards red.
As expected, the Red Bulls are strong in the corners, losing 3 tenths in the third sector with the long straight. A disadvantage for one lap, not anymore in the racing simulations. Max Verstappen was on average only two hundredths of a second slower over 12 laps on the ultrasoft tire than Lewis Hamilton over 10 laps. On the soft rubber, the difference is 2 tenths in favor of the Mercedes. Again it shows: The Silver Arrows tend to feel more comfortable on the hard mixes.
Ferrari dismantles at the end of the stint
Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko was satisfied with the long runs of his drivers, but the Grazer grumbled: “We had a fast car in the first two races too. But to show that, you have to drive the race first. ”That means: no accidents, no defects. Max Verstappen made a slip in the first practice session, Daniel Ricciardo's fastest lap was slowed down by a hiccup in the turbocharger. “Something was wrong with the engine map. The turbocharger gavenot the full performance ”, revealed Marko.
Mercedes went back to the old form in China. On a lap and in the endurance runs. Bahrain's tire problems have not been repeated so far. Which is because the Shanghai circuit demands more of the front tires and the asphalt temperatures were just over 20 degrees. “It should get warmer on Sunday. So there remains a question mark as to what happens then, 'said the engineers.
The Ferrari drivers were still struggling with the vehicle balance:' This time more oversteer than understeer, 'explained Vettel. “We haven't fully met the setup yet. My car isn't doing what I want yet. ”In return, the long run times of the world championship leader were respectable. On the ultrasoft tires, Vettel lost 0.237 seconds on Hamilton. “I also had Hülkenberg in the way.”
With the medium tires, he was faster than Valtteri Bottas. Since the long run with the hardest mixture took place towards the end of the training session, the Mercedes strategists believe that Vettel's Ferrari was lighter than Bottas' Mercedes. The rain stopped the endurance runs 11 minutes before the checkered flag.
On closer inspection of the racing simulations, it is noticeable that Ferrari starts strong, as it did in Bahrain, and breaks down towards the rear. “A little too much this time, especially with the ultrasoft tires. We have to work on that, 'criticized Vettel. Mercedes and Red Bull kept their tires in better shape.
Toro Rosso not as strong as in Bahrain
In midfield, McLaren, Renault and HaasF1 showed an almost equal performance. At McLaren there is again one lap missing, but in the racing simulation on the Ultrasoft rubbers, the Spaniard is in the Renault sandwich and ahead of Romain Grosjean in the HaasF1. Nico Hülkenberg was satisfied with one exception: “We had one of our better Fridays. Only the ultrasoft tires degraded a little too much for my taste. ”Pirelli's softest compound on offer showed tendencies towards grains on the Renault front left. 'That will go away when it gets warmer on Sunday,' believes Operations Manager AlanPermane.
Toro Rosso will struggle to repeat Bahrain's performance. “The Toro Rosso are still losing too much time in Sectors 1 and 3. It gets tougher here. ”, Fears Marko. But the doctor also sees bright spots. “Gasly drove a long run on ultrasoft tires with 1.39 times at the end. For one lap he is close to the Q3 limit. ”
Force India is also hoping for that. “We're roughly where we were in Bahrain. It could be enough for the top ten ”, hopes technical director Andy Green. The fourth place in the World Championship last year made small progress with a modified diffuser, but not enough to drive at the top of the field of pursuers. The new front wing will only be used again in Barcelona. “Before that we have to solve the main problem that is holding us back. The rear of the car is unstable. If you have too little downforce at the rear, a stronger front wing makes no sense. ”
One stop is possible, but without ultrasoft tires
The GP China could also be a race on the border between one and two stops. That is why almost all of the teams first uncoiled their long runs with the softest tire compound from the Pirelli range. To find out whether the Ultrasoft is a good racing tire and how far it can carry.
Toro Rosso showed that 16 laps are possible. If the car is set up accordingly, the ultrasofts don't even collapse dramatically. It's a different story for the top teams. More downforce heats the tires more from the inside. That could cause problems at higher asphalt temperatures.
Anyone who qualifies in the top ten is trapped. He then has to go into the race with ultrasoft tires, unless he survives Q2 on soft tires. With a delta of 0.9 seconds between Ultrasoft and Soft, even the top teams could be a problem. “That's why eleventh and twelfth places are not so bad because of the free choice of tires,” says Green.
A one-stop tactic with an ultrasoft tire will be a risky balancing act. The Force India engineer expects it to be like in Bahrainseveral strategies will give. It looks like Sauber is planning another one-stop race. Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc only did their long runs on soft and medium tires.
In the gallery we show the best pictures from free practice in Shanghai.