F1: Chinese GP Free Practice Report – Little between Mercedes and Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel during Free Practice. Image sourced from @ScuderiaFerrari via Twitter.

As Formula One celebrates its 1000th GP, were treated to two very tight Practice sessions.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel led FP1, while Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas took control of proceeding in FP2, albeit by the smallest of margins.

Vettel put his memories of the Bahrain Grand Prix behind him to bounce back to top the first Practice session ahead of the reigning champion, Lewis Hamilton. Interestingly, Vettel was two tenths quicker than his rival on the Medium tyre. In contrast, Hamilton opted for the Soft tyre, and is a good indicator of the Scuderia’s power advantage.

The other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was third, two and a half tenths behind team-mate Vettel. Since their problems in Bahrain, Ferrari have dealt with what caused the loss of power, which ultimately cost him victory.

Max Verstappen was a promising fourth, but despite being over four tenths off the pace, Hamilton expects Red Bull to be a ‘big threat’ on Sunday.

Championship leader Bottas was fifth fastest, followed by Daniel Ricciardo, who did well to finish sixth for Renault.

The second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly was seventh, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, the Racing Point of Lance Stroll and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.

After finishing in sixth in Bahrain, Lando Norris was 13th quickest with team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr in 16th.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi endured a difficult session, after losing power and prevented the Italian from setting a lap time.

The team took his C38 apart to fix the problem ahead of the FP2 session.

Come FP2, Bottas showed that Mercedes were still in the fight by going fastest by just 0.027s ahead of Vettel.

Although it wasn’t plain-sailing for the leading drivers in the championship, both Bottas and Hamilton suffered early spins in the session.

While Bottas was able to set a time, Hamilton did not due to debris on the track, and was only fourth and seven tenths behind his Finnish team-mate.

Verstappen improved in the afternoon to third place, and was just over two tenths behind the lead Mercedes of Bottas.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr were also within a second of Bottas’ time. Leclerc was seventh and like Hamilton, did not set a competitive lap. He ended his session early as Ferrari carried out cooling system checks on his SF90.

The struggling Red Bull of Gasly was down in tenth and appeared to still be getting to grips with his ‘tricky’ RB15.

Kvyat suffered an issue with his Honda power unit and the team were forced to change it for a new one, which cost the Russian valuable track time.

Grosjean finished the session 17th, but suffered what appeared to be a front wing failure at Turn 1. Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi was able to get out and ended 18th after his engine troubles in FP1.

With Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull’s Verstappen looking ultra-close, Qualifying tomorrow should be very exciting to watch.