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Chinese GP 2018

APRIL 14, 2018

Practice 3 Report - Unmatchable

Sebastian Vettel, Chinese GP 2018
© RV Press

By Dan Knutson

Lewis Hamilton topped the times with his Mercedes during the Friday practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix, but Ferrari was unmatchable in the Saturday morning session with Sebastian Vettel going fastest overall.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari – Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes –Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin; McLaren Renault – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Honda – Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton went quickest on Friday, clocking a 1:33.482 on Pirelli's ultra soft compound slicks. The other two compounds were the soft and medium.

Raikkonen was a mere 0.007 of a second slower.

"It's Friday, there's no battle, it's just practice and for sure we'll keep on going faster," Raikkonen said after FP2. "There was some traffic but the feeling was okay. We know roughly where we are with the one-lap pace but in the long run it started to rain, so it was a bit tricky."

Ericsson was the first out on track. Ricciardo, meanwhile, was stuck in the garage as the mechanics worked on his gearbox.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was a rather chilly 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Centigrade). As on Friday, the wind was gusting, making the ambient temperature feel even cooler that it was.

Rain overnight had cleaned the rubber off the circuit that had already been slippery. So some of the drivers remained in the pits and let others put fresh rubber on the tarmac. But the Ferraris were in action, and Raikkonen laid down a marker of 1:34.794. Vettel promptly beat that with a 1:33.689.

Nineteen minutes into the session Bottas headed out on the soft tires, and he took third place and then second albeit a second slower than Vettel. Hamilton, also on the softs, ran wide on a couple of corners and ended up fourth.

The session was 27 minutes old when Ricciardo finally got going.

Grosjean spun at Turn 10. He drove to the pits with his rear brakes on fire.

Next, Hamilton had a lurid spin when he got on the wet astroturf exiting Turn 10. He headed back to the pits on flat spotted tires.

Smoke and flames pouring from the rear of the Red Bull, Ricciardo pulled to the side of the track at the exit of Turn 14 just past the midpoint of FP3. The marshals pushed the car off the track.

The Virtual Safety Car was deployed, so nobody could go for a fast lap until the track went green with 19 minutes to go.

The Mercedes and Ferrari teams fitted their cars with the ultra soft tires. Vettel turned a lap in 1:33.018, while Raikkonen did a l:33.469. Bottas managed a 1:33.880.

Now Hamilton was on his fast run but could only do a 1:34.057. Bottas then improved a bit but remained third.

Verstappen slotted into fourth with a 1:33.969, pushing Hamilton down to fifth.

So the session wound down, and at the end the top 10 were: Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Magnussen, Perez, Ocon, Sainz and Sirotkin.