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Chinese GP 2019

APRIL 12, 2019

Practice 1 Report - Countdown to 1000

Sebastian Vettel, Chinese GP 2019
© RV Press

By Dan Knutson in Shanghai

The countdown to the 1000th race in the Formula 1 World Championship began with Free Practice 1 for the Chinese Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest lap time in his Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton wound up second in his Mercedes.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari - Vettel and Charles Leclerc; Red Bull TAG Heuer -Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly; Renault - Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault - Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; Racing Point Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll; Alfa Romeo Ferrari - Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; Toro Rosso Honda - Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon; Williams Mercedes - George Russell and Robert Kubica.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade).

Magnussen and Grosjean were the first on track. Next were Albon and Vettel.

"Two of the corners are especially important: the first one and the one leading to the very long straight, over a kilometer in length," Vettel said of the 16-turn 3.387-mile (5.451 km) Shanghai International Circuit. "They're both very technical and it's difficult to find the right line because the track there is also very wide. They are challenging, not only in qualifying when you need to do just one lap, but also in the race.

"Looking after tires is one of the key points in Shanghai; it's the most important job to do on Sunday in order to be fast for the whole race. In the past I've had some good races here with Ferrari, coming very close to winning. Maybe this time we'll get that little bit of luck, so that we can really celebrate the 1000th Formula 1 race."

Vettel and the rest of the drivers - bar the Mercedes teammates - did their install laps under sunny skies and returned to the pits.

It wasn't until the half-hour mark approached that the drivers started setting some fast lap times, with Vettel on top with a 1:35.988 on the medium compound Pirelli tires.

Hamilton and Bottas were on the soft compound slicks. The former clocked a 1:35.572 and the latter a 1:35.696. Shortly thereafter Stroll did a half-spin in the final corner.

Still on the mediums, Vettel retook the lead with a 1:35.395. Hamilton responded by turning a 1:35.102. And Bottas, 0.043 of a second slower, reclaimed second spot.

At the 40-minute break, when each driver returns a set of tires to Pirelli, the order was: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Vettel, Perez, Leclerc, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Grosjean. At the bottom was Giovinazzi who had done just two laps and not set a time.

When things got going again, so did Vettel who lowered the bar to 1:33.911 using the mediums. Hamilton, on the softs, set a 1:34.118. Leclerc moved into third ahead of Bottas.

Verstappen had a good lap going on a new set of soft Pirellis and looked to take the lead, but the Red Bull driver lost time in the final sector and slotted into fourth ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo and Gasly.

With 15 minutes remaining only a couple of drivers were on track. But that didn't last long as the circuit got busy again. Everyone but Giovinazzi, still stuck in the garage with a power unit problem, was out there. But the drivers were on used tires, so there were not going to be any fast times set.

And so FP1 counted down, and at the end the top 10 were: Vettel, Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Gasly, Kvyat, Stroll and Grosjean.