F1 Chinese Grand Prix practice notes

Rain and more rain wrecked free practice at the 2017 F1 Chinese Grand Prix. A quick review of the (limited) highlights.

A wash out in Shanghai

Mixed weather conditions might not be the excitement-inducing variable we had hoped for in Shanghai. The vast majority of FP1 was a right-off due not to the rain but the inability of the medical helicopter to operate. FP2 was a complete wash out for the same reason leaving most of the field having only turned a few laps all day.

Mixed conditions are expected on Sunday with a potentially dry Saturday. There are of course real concerns that if the medical helicopter cannot operate on Sunday, the race is in serious jeopardy.

But McLaren are delighted… sort of…

Despite the free practice weather issues, McLaren Honda are going to be doing a rain dance to help ease their straight line performance issues. Zak Brown speaking to Sky F1 during FP1 was comfortable to admit that rain across the weekend would be in his team’s interests.

He also had the chance to deny the usual round of Fernando Alonso rumours. Chiefly that his retirement from the Australian Grand Prix was not due to running out of fuel and their star driver was not going to leave the team mid-season. Brown also reasserted the commitment of McLaren to their partnership with Honda but could offer little in the way of hope for fans or timescales for improvements.

Free practice completely inconclusive in China

FP1 times were completely inconclusive. F1’s current rain-meister Max Verstappen set the fastest time. But with most of the field only managing a hand full of laps and neither Ferrari drivers posting a time, conclusions from free practice are that we have very little idea how the teams will line up on Sunday (if we have a race at all given the issues around the helicopter not being able to land at the designated hospital near the circuit).

F1 rookies face an uphill battle in Shanghai

One thing we can be certain of is that rookies Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon are seriously on the back foot. Such limited running and potential for a dry Saturday but wet race on Sunday is a real curve-ball for both. At least Stroll got a few wet laps in FP1 since he missed out on the Barcelona artificial ‘rain’ run in pre-season testing.

Wet weather tyres might be pretty useless

The limited running on FP1 did suggest that Pirelli’s much maligned full wets were burning up pretty early in the runs. The difficulty in managing them and finding a potential cross-over point between intermediates and full wets is just another headache for the teams. Very limited running in the wet conditions today has probably made that more of a thumping migraine.

On the upside we did have the joyous sight of Nico Hulkenberg helping two security guards to open a gate after he beached his Renault in FP1. Plus utter carnage as Lewis Hamilton chucked signed caps in to the audience. Good on the triple World champion for doing something to reward the stalwart fans who stuck around for a pretty rubbish Friday F1 practice.

And finally…

Keep an eye on the schedules for Saturday qualifying and the race on Sunday. Rumours suggest there might be a decision to shift timings in order to beat the weather. And perhaps even a mooted race on Saturday…

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