Alfa F1 boss had ‘fingers crossed’ over Kimi Raikkonen reliability
Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team boss Frederic Vasseur admits he had his fingers crossed during the Chinese Grand Prix due to concerns over Ferrari engine reliability on Kimi Raikkonen’s car.
Unlike fellow Ferrari customer Haas, Alfa had chosen not to take the new specifications of control electronics offered after the problem suffered by Charles Leclerc during the Bahrain GP – instead opting to stick with the first version because it felt it lacked time to sort the installation.
On Saturday Antonio Giovinazzi’s qualifying session was ruined by a recurrence of the issue that cost Leclerc victory at Sakhir. Giovinazzi was given a fresh example of the old spec electronics for the race.
Raikkonen stuck with his original unit, leading to concerns that he too would have problems.
In the event the Finn enjoyed a successful charge from 13th on the grid to ninth, logging points for the third race in a row.
"I had my fingers crossed on the pitwall," Vasseur told Autosport. "It was not easy to push on the buttons!
"Overall it was a good Sunday for us, we had a good recovery compared to [qualifying].
"It’s important for us to score points every race and be consistent.
"We know perfectly well that if we want to stay on the top of the rest – I don’t care if it’s P4 or P5 – we have to be consistent over all the races, and be able to score points in every single event."
Vasseur added that Raikkonen, who was frustrated to lose some performance in the closing stages while chasing the cars ahead, continues to impress Alfa.
"He’s scoring points, even when he’s starting 13th. He was a bit upset not to be able to catch [Daniel] Ricciardo and [Sergio] Perez at the end, which is a good sign," said Vasseur.
"The pace was there, and I think we were even able to catch Ricciardo and Perez, but we had some small damage 10 laps before the end on the front.
"We also lost temperature in the front tyres, mainly due to the fact that we lost downforce."
Raikkonen: Tyre temperature drop cost chance of better China result
Alfa Romeo Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen reckons losing temperature in his front tyres cost him the chance of finishing best of the rest in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Raikkonen finished ninth, 10 seconds behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and seven off the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.
But he had been within DRS range of Perez in his second stint, and Raikkonen thought he would have had a chance of overhauling the pair ahead had he not lost temperature in his hard rubber in the closing stages.
Speaking to Autosport, Raikkonen said his Alfa Romeo felt strong on race pace as he pushed through the field following a disappointing qualifying.
"We at least got a few points and it is better than yesterday for sure," said Raikkonen, who had qualified 13th.
"The car was handling pretty nicely, but in the end I just lost temperature in my front tyres.
"I think with my tyres the wear was very good, but it got too cold and I lost the grip in the front so I couldn’t push anymore.
"It was a bit of a shame as I felt we could quite easily have caught up with the other cars, but it didn’t work out at the end."
While Raikkonen added to his points tally and is seventh in the drivers’ standings – just one point behind Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly – his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi failed to finish in the points again.
After a frustrating weekend that was hampered by reliability woes, Giovinazzi finished 15th after failing to make enough progress from the back of the grid.
"I think China was not my weekend, to be honest," said the Italian.
"It was [already] a difficult weekend so far, and today we tried to make a different strategy compared to others to try to gain positions, but in the end it didn’t work.
"This is it, and I just want it to be Baku."
Chinese Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton beats Valtteri Bottas to win
Lewis Hamilton won a processional 2019 Chinese Grand Prix for the Mercedes Formula 1 team ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Ferrari’s challenge faded with a weak opening stint.
Hamilton hooked up more cleanly away from the start and nosed into Turn 1 first ahead of polesitting Bottas, while Charles Leclerc went by his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel to claim third place.
As the midfielders squeezed through the Turn 6 hairpin Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat caught a brief rear-end twitch, bouncing off Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren and then interlocking wheels with Sainz’s team-mate Lando Norris, who was pitched into the air.
That prompted a brief virtual safety car deployment so that debris – including part of Sainz’s front wing – could be cleared.
Hamilton edged away at around half a second a lap in the initial phase of the race while the majority of the frontrunners settled into tyre-conversation mode – all except for Vettel, who was shaping up to pass his team-mate. Leclerc, for his part, was told to push harder or give way.
Ferrari quickly firmed up that instruction into a directive to let Vettel by, and Leclerc reluctantly complied at the beginning of lap 11 of 56.
But despite the swap Vettel made few inroads into the advantage of Bottas, let alone Hamilton, even though he was clearly flirting with his car’s limits – even snatching a front-left brake and running wide at the Turn 14 hairpin on lap 13. Leclerc wasted no time in telling his engineer that he, now, was being held up.
As the Mercedes stretched into the distance, fifth-placed Max Verstappen joined the hunt for the podium by pitting for hard tyres on lap 18. That prompted Ferrari to pit Vettel to cover the potential undercut, and indeed when Vettel emerged on his new set of hards he was barely ahead of the Red Bull.
Verstappen made a DRS-assisted pass on the back straight and was ahead into Turn 14, but ran slightly wide and Vettel edged him onto the grass at the exit to reclaim what was now fourth place.
Ferrari was now committed to a long stint for Leclerc since he would inevitably leave the pits behind this battle – and when he did stop for hards, five laps after his team-mate, he was nearly 11s adrift of Verstappen.
Bottas pitted for hards on lap 22, followed by Hamilton one tour later, and as the world champion departed the pitlane the gap between the two Mercedes had shrunk to 1.5s.
But Hamilton stretched his legs again and strung out the gap beyond five seconds, and within 10 laps of pitting his only concern was whether Bottas had set the fastest lap of the race and thereby secured an extra point.
Red Bull moved first to trigger the next rash of stops on lap 36, bringing Verstappen in for fresh mediums. Ferrari responded by pitting Vettel a lap later for similar rubber, and next time round Mercedes brought both Hamilton and Bottas in for mediums as well.
That meant Bottas emerged in third place behind the out-of-sequence Leclerc and had a fight on his hands. For almost two laps Leclerc denied him until Bottas launched a textbook DRS-assisted move into Turn 14.
Once clear, Bottas pulled away as Leclerc fell into the clutches of his own team-mate. Ferrari brought Leclerc in for mediums on lap 42 and he was slow out of the box, leaving the pits in fifth place and over 15s behind Verstappen.
Though Leclerc tried to chip away at the margin, he reported gearbox issues later in the race – though Ferrari reassured him there was no problem – and Verstappen remained a distant speck.
Sixth-placed Pierre Gasly had a lonely race in the second Red Bull, running immediately behind his team-mate in the opening laps, but it was probably too much to expect him to run 19 laps on the softs. By the time he pitted he was well adrift of the battle with the Ferraris.
With two laps to run, Gasly was in enough space for Red Bull to swap him onto soft tyres for a tilt at the fastest lap. He set personal bests in the first two sectors and went purple in the last to sew up the bonus point.
Renault split its strategy by bringing Nico Hulkenberg in early to swap from soft to hard tyres on lap 12 while leaving Daniel Ricciardo out for a long first stint on the softs. The outcome for Hulkenberg was rendered moot when he was forced to retire five tours later.
Ricciardo then had a relatively uneventful run to seventh as the final three points-paying places became the most hotly contested positions in the race.
Sergio Perez combined a strong start – he gained four places on the opening lap – with a 20-lap first stint on mediums to secure eighth place from 12th on the grid. Behind him Kimi Raikkonen also ran a long first stint on mediums, fell behind the early-stopping Haas entries when he did stop, then made the best of fresher rubber to go by both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to claim ninth.
Magnussen and Grosjean started ninth and 10th but stopped to get rid of their soft Pirellis early, before the race was 10 laps old, and lost track position as a result. After dropping behind Raikkonen, Grosjean ran 10th ahead of Magnussen in the second stint until both cars made early second stops.
This gave the Haas drivers further work to do to overhaul the likes of Lance Stroll and Alexander Albon. Grosjean came close to getting the job done but had to obey blue flags for Leclerc on the final lap, enabling Albon to hold on and secure the final point for Toro Rosso despite starting from the pitlane having changed chassis after his huge practice crash.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||56||27.627s|
|6||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||56||1m29.307s|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||55||1 Lap|
|8||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||55||1 Lap|
|9||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||55||1 Lap|
|10||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||55||1 Lap|
|11||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||55||1 Lap|
|12||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||55||1 Lap|
|13||Kevin Magnussen||Haas/Ferrari||55||1 Lap|
|14||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||55||1 Lap|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||55||1 Lap|
|16||George Russell||Williams/Mercedes||54||2 Laps|
|17||Robert Kubica||Williams/Mercedes||54||2 Laps|
|18||Lando Norris||McLaren/Renault||50||Not running|
|–||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||41||Retirement|
|18||Carlos Sainz Jr.||0|
Raikkonen: F1 becoming more of a hobby has made it ‘more fun again’
Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen suspects that Formula 1 becoming "more of a hobby" for him is what has made it "more fun again".
The 2007 world champion has joined Alfa, which is run by the Sauber organisation that gave the Finn his F1 debut back in 2001, after Ferrari opted to replace him with rising star Charles Leclerc.
Raikkonen has appeared more relaxed since his Ferrari exit was confirmed in the second half of 2018, and has enjoyed the less political situation in his new team.
Asked how he stays motivated as he nears a new F1 record for number of starts, the 39-year-old said: "I don’t know really. I don’t have any special things that I try to motivate myself.
"It’s become more of a hobby for me lately than anything else and probably that’s why it’s more fun again.
"I always try to do the best that I can. Some days it goes a bit better than others – but that’s how it goes when you do a lot of racing. Some days it’s a bit more tricky than others.
"It’s never really been an issue. A lot of people think so but everybody has the right to say what they think.
"I just try to do what I can and when I feel that it’s not what I expect from myself then obviously I try to find a new hobby after that."
Raikkonen has scored points in both his races for the Alfa team so far with an eighth and a seventh in Australia and Bahrain.
Those results mean he is currently sixth in the championship, the top driver outside of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
They also mean Alfa is best of the rest in the constructors’ contest too, despite Raikkonen’s team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi not yet registering a points finish.
Alfa team boss Frederic Vasseur said Raikkonen is not suffering from "the bad side of ‘hobby’", or not taking his Alfa campaign seriously, because it brings the best out of him.
"It is a great approach, to be fully committed when he is at work and to release the pressure when you are outside of this system," Vasseur said.
"He doesn’t take it easy. He is fully dedicated, fully focused and he is pushing like hell on every single detail.
"You can ask the engineers. Nobody will consider that Kimi is on vacation!"
Raikkonen has often been described as an old-school F1 character, and compared to the likes of 1976 world champion James Hunt – who Raikkonen paid tribute to with a replica helmet in Monaco in 2012.
As F1 celebrates its 1000th world championship race this weekend in China, several drivers have been asked what era they would like to have raced in. Raikkonen said: "I would look at the late ’60s, ’70s.
"For sure it would have been more fun, more relaxed, more pure racing.
"Obviously much more dangerous but that’s normal at that time."
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying: Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2
Valtteri Bottas claimed his first Formula 1 pole position of the 2019 season in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Finn pipped Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot by just 23 thousandths of a second, with the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in third.
Bottas held the advantage through much of qualifying, although Hamilton did set the pace in Q2 thanks to having a second run on medium Pirellis.
Vettel beat Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to third by 0.017s, the duo jumping ahead of Max Verstappen on their final runs.
This was thanks to Verstappen failing to cross the line to start his lap before the chequered flag after becoming stuck in a queue of cars, with Vettel passing him at the hairpin late in the lap to ensure that he was able to make it through in time.
That left Verstappen fifth, 0.542s off the pace and over eight tenths faster than Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly – who was also unable to complete a second lap.
Daniel Ricciardo had only one fresh set of softs for Q3, but used it to beat Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to eighth by just 0.004s.
Neither Haas driver set a time in Q3, with both also failing to start their laps at the end of the session due to traffic.
Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat failed to improve on his first-run time Q2 having been seventh early on, meaning he was shuffled down to 11th and fastest of those eliminated in the second segment of qualifying.
Perez was just 0.063s further behind in the best of the Racing Points, just over a tenth faster than the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn reported he lost some engine power over the radio after not improving by enough to make the top 10.
McLaren duo Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris were 15th and 16th, separated by 0.444s, with Sainz admitting he was disappointed not to be four places higher after what appeared to be decent lap.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was the only driver with a fighting chance of escaping Q1 not to do so, ending up 16th after lapping 0.144s slower than Norris – the third time this season Stroll has fallen in the first stage of qualifying.
Williams pairing George Russell and Robert Kubica were 17th and 18th, a second down on Stroll and separated by 0.028s.
Kubica complained of massive oversteer in the session, while Russell described his lap as "rubbish".
Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a time after hitting problems on his first run, suspected to be related to the engine.
Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon did not participate in qualifying thanks to monocoque damage sustained in his crash at the end of the morning practice session.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m32.089s||0.542s|
|6||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m32.930s||1.383s|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m33.236s||–|
|12||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m33.299s||–|
|13||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m33.419s||–|
|14||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m33.523s||–|
|16||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m34.292s||–|
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||–||–|
|20||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||–||–|
Chinese GP practice: Bottas leads practice halted by Albon crash
Valtteri Bottas went quickest for Mercedes in what proved to be an unrepresentative final practice session for Formula 1’s 2019 Chinese Grand Prix.
Practice was red-flagged with five minutes remaining when Alexander Albon ran wide at the exit of the final corner and smote his Toro Rosso heavily against the barrier.
Honours had been split in Friday practice as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went fastest in the first session and Bottas topped the second, while analysis of long-run times suggested the two teams were closely matched on potential race pace.
But final practice ended with question marks still hanging over the teams’ relative performance because the stoppage interrupted the final runs.
After the initial qualifying-simulation runs Vettel was on top with an impressive 1m33.222s, 0.734 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was fractionally faster than Bottas, but the Ferrari was running on Pirelli’s soft compound while both Mercedes were on the mediums.
Despite being quickest of all through the second sector, Charles Leclerc was only fourth at this point, nearly eighth tenths off his team-mate’s pace.
With 10 minutes remaining Leclerc attempted a second run but had only improved to 1m33.248s, third quickest behind Vettel, when the session was stopped.
When the leading group emerged for their second runs with 10 minutes to go, Bottas leapt to the top of the timesheet on soft tyres with a 1m32.830s, faster than Vettel by 0.392s as Vettel had twice run wide on his first flying lap of the run.
The stoppage then put paid to Vettel’s attempts to improve his earlier time, and a scruffy lap by Hamilton at the beginning of his second run left the other Mercedes fourth fastest.
Red Bull sat out half the 60-minute session before mobilising. Pierre Gasly was first of its cars to hit the track but his first run, on medium tyres, was scruffy in places and left him outside the top 10. He never got to set a timed lap on soft tyres.
Max Verstappen’s first run of 1m34.447s, on soft tyres, was good enough for fifth but a yawning 1.225s away from Vettel’s initial benchmark. His attempts to improve were scuppered by the red flag and he ended the session seventh, usurped by Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault and Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo – both getting final soft-tyred runs in before the red flag.
The two Alfa Romeos came close to having a contretemps on the back straight shortly after the half-way mark, after which Raikkonen suggested team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi had deliberately moved over on him.
Albon and Daniil Kvyat had been sixth and seventh for Toro Rosso after the first qualifying simulations on soft tyres and separated by just a tenth. But they were bumped down the order to ninth and 10th in the final reckoning and may even have slumped further had other midfield runners been able to make final runs.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr was one midfielder who got a second run in before the red flag and he ended the session eighth. Team-mate Lando Norris also briefly figured in the top 10 for McLaren but his second run was compromised by an off at the final corner.
Both Racing Points were in the top 10 after the first runs but Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, like Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, were also stymied by the early stoppage.
Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen languished at the bottom of the timesheets with only the Williams for company for the balance of the session, courtesy of middling-paced initial efforts on medium tyres. The red flag also cost them the opportunity of moving upwards.
|6||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m34.246s||1.416s||14|
|7||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m34.447s||1.617s||5|
|8||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m34.510s||1.680s||9|
|9||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m34.600s||1.770s||11|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m34.783s||1.953s||10|
|12||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m35.078s||2.248s||9|
|14||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m35.223s||2.393s||10|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m35.326s||2.496s||8|
|16||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m35.726s||2.896s||12|
Chinese GP F1 practice: Bottas leads Mercedes fightback in FP2
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas pipped Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to top spot by 27-thousandths of a second in the second Formula 1 free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver was fourth fastest during the first runs when he used the hard-compound Pirellis, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton was quickest using mediums – setting a time of 1m34.226s after a quick spin at Turn 3 on his outlap.
Ferrari driver Vettel was the first of the frontrunners to set a time on the soft Pirellis, initially going fastest with a lap of 1m33.357s to outpace Hamilton by 0.869s just after the half-hour mark.
Bottas then put in his quick lap on softs, losing 0.144s in the first sector but outpacing Vettel by 0.176 in the middle sector.
Bottas then almost matched Vettel in the final sector, losing only 0.005s, to set a time of 1m33.330s to secure top spot.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was third fastest for Red Bull, 0.221s down and almost half-a-second faster than Hamilton.
Hamilton didn’t put together a strong lap on the softs, ending up just half-a-tenth faster than the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Carlos Sainz Jr continued McLaren’s recent strong form with sixth fastest, eight-tenths off the pace and 0.0017s ahead of the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc was only able to improve by 0.113s on his medium-compound pace on the softs, meaning he ended up sandwiched between the two McLarens and just over a tenth ahead of Lando Norris.
Leclerc’s running in the session was curtailed after 13 laps as he returned to the garage for cooling checks "as a precaution to avoid any damage".
Daniel Ricciardo, in the second Renault, was ninth and a second off the pace, with Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly one of the last to set a time on softs and ending up 10th.
Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen was briefly as high as fifth before being shuffled down to 11th place ahead of the lead Toro Rosso of Alex Albon.
Racing Point duo Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez were 13th and 14th ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, with the trio separated by just 0.009s.
Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso missed the first half of the session after a precautionary power unit change, which the team said was because of finding an "anomaly" in the first session.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean was 17th after losing a front wing during the session after it appeared to break on the right side, apparently thanks to the loads created by the bumps on the approach to Turn 1.
Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who missed most of the first session with an engine-related problem, was 18th ahead of the two Williams drivers, with Robert Kubica leading George Russell.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m33.551s||0.221s||29|
|6||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m34.141s||0.811s||36|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m34.455s||1.125s||32|
|11||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m34.551s||1.221s||33|
|12||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m34.634s||1.304s||37|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m34.694s||1.364s||20|
|14||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m34.779s||1.449s||37|
|15||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m34.784s||1.454s||35|
|18||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m35.914s||2.584s||40|
Chinese GP F1 practice:Vettel beats Hamilton and Leclerc to top FP1
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the opening practice session for Formula 1’s Chinese Grand Prix, outpacing the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton by 0.207s.
Having established clear superiority in straightline speed at the preceding race in Bahrain, Ferrari was expected to build on that advantage on the long straights of the Shanghai International Circuit as the championship celebrates its 1000th grand prix.
It proceeded to do so as Vettel surged ahead while running a harder compound of tyre than Hamilton, who closed out the session fractionally faster than Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc.
Red Bull arrived in China hoping to be closer to Mercedes and Ferrari after identifying a set-up issue that hindered Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly in Bahrain.
But while fourth-placed Verstappen’s fastest time of 1m34.334s on soft tyres was only two tenths off Hamilton’s best on similar rubber, it was nearly half a second slower than the benchmark Vettel set on mediums.
Gasly only ran on the medium and hard Pirellis and was therefore more representative of comparative pace – and he ended the session seventh fastest with a 1m35.428s, 1.5s adrift of Vettel.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas, the championship leader, was fifth with a 1m34.653s he set on the soft tyres, while Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo also employed the softer rubber and sneaked ahead of Gasly to post the sixth quickest time.
A number of teams elected to replace engine components ahead of practice: Renault gave Nico Hulkenberg an entirely new power unit package (ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K and turbocharger) and Ricciardo a new MGU-K, while McLaren’s Lando Norris also took on a new MGU-K.
Norris’s team-mate Carlos Sainz got the revised component in Bahrain after his failure in Australia.
Ferrari took the unusual step of replacing the control electronics in both its own cars as well as the Haas entries, but not the Alfa Romeos.
Since Shanghai is a seldom-used track as well as being front-limited, it evolves greatly over the course of the weekend and teams seldom go for ‘glory runs’ in first practice.
The session was 20 minutes old before any drivers actually set a timed lap and it was the two Mercedes who were fastest in the initial running, largely by way of lapping on soft tyres while most other team sent their drivers out on harder rubber.
Hamilton set an early benchmark of 1m35.102s on the softs, but since this was only a little over two tenths faster than Max Verstappen wrung out of his Red Bull on a set of hard tyres – one of only two sets he’s allocated this weekend – it was only a matter of time before the laptimes began to tumble as the track evolved.
After a further brief lull in activity the majority of the drivers headed out again with 30 minutes to go, and it was here that Ferrari began to show its hand properly as first Leclerc and then Vettel overhauled Hamilton with a 1m34.167s and a 1m33.167s respectively, on the medium tyres.
Hamilton then split the Ferraris with a 1m34.118s on softs, set at the beginning of a five-lap run.
Verstappen then beat his earlier time during a three-lap run on soft rubber, but none of the other frontrunners subsequently improved.
In Gasly’s immediate wake, Daniil Kvyat was eighth for Toro Rosso and Lance Stroll ninth for Racing Point despite a spin at the final corner early in the session.
Both ran on medium tyres throughout, while Romain Grosjean closed out the top 10 for Haas with a 1m35.507s set on softs.
Just over a tenth of a second separated seventh-placed Gasly from 11th-placed Kevin Magnussen.
Of the regular front-midfield runners, Alfa Romeo had a relatively disappointing showing as Kimi Raikkonen finished 15th and Antonio Giovinazzi completed just two installation laps, spending the rest of the session in the garage with a suspected engine issue.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m34.334s||0.423s||20|
|7||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m35.428s||1.517s||23|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m35.447s||1.536s||24|
|9||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m35.466s||1.555s||25|
|14||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m35.695s||1.784s||26|
|15||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m35.729s||1.818s||23|
|16||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1m35.756s||1.845s||24|
|17||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m35.820s||1.909s||24|
|20||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||–||–||2|
Q: Thank you Sergio. Kimi?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Yeah, I don’t know what year it was, but it was a long time ago, ‘80s, that’s for sure. I think the first memories were somewhere where Keke was racing when he blew up his tyre or something, maybe Adelaide or something, with the long straight, maybe the last races that he did. So anyhow, obviously I was cheering for the Finnish guys, but I didn’t think that I… maybe you dream when you’re a kid, but once you start doing go-karts and everything I didn’t really believe that it was going to happen, because obviously you need a certain amount of money to get from go-karts to racing. Maybe I believed a bit more when I got my managers helping and then actually got to race in Formula cars and then obviously it went very quickly. I guess it was a dream but not very realistic at that point, but it went fast once it started to go there.
Q: Kimi, great start to the season for you and Alfa Romeo, points in both of the opening two races. Can you tell us, what are the strengths of this year’s car and has the performance so far changed your goals for the season?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: No, it hasn’t. I didn’t really have any goals, so it’s pretty hard to change them. I can’t really talk about last year’s car. Obviously I did a test but it’s one track so from my side it’s hard to say what is better on this car than the one they had last year but for sure they did a good job over the winter from the car that I drove in Abu Dhabi in the tyre test to the one we have now. Obviously there’s a lot of things to improve still and it’s a never-ending story and an ongoing thing to try to make it better, holding more downforce and stuff like that – but yeah, I think in general it’s quite a good, solid package and we understand it pretty OK and they seem to have good guys on all areas to bring new stuff. It never comes fast enough but that’s a normal issue in any team you go to. Yeah, I think the basis there is to make it faster all the time, so keep it up and see what we’ve got when we get to the end of the year.
Q: Anything different on the helmet design to celebrate 1000 races?
KR: No. I wanted to have an open-face helmet but there were some regulation issues…!
Q: (Steven Wade – AP) Kimi, we see that this summer you’re going to break an F1 record for the most races contested, how do you stay motivated? You’ve had tremendous success already, how do you stay motivated and stay on top of your game?
KR: I don’t know really. I don’t have any special things that I try to motivate myself. It’s become more of a hobby for me lately than anything else and probably that’s why it’s more fun again, so, yeah, I always try to do the best that I can. Some days it goes a bit better than others – but that’s how it goes when you do a lot of racing. Some days it’s a bit more tricky than others. It’s never really been an issue. A lot of people think so but, y’know, everybody has the right to say what they think. I just try to do what I can and hopefully… when I feel myself that it’s not what I expect from myself then obviously I try to find a new hobby after that.
Q: (Michael Butterworth – Xinhua News Agency) To all four drivers, keen to know your thoughts on the Shanghai circuit and if there are any particular features or characteristics that make it especially challenging or unique?
KR: I think it’s a nice track. It’s been the same since I came here the first time but some good overtaking opportunities and quite good fun to drive.
Q: (Velimir Jukic Auto-Focus) Question for Kimi. They say you are slower for each kid by about one second. How are you compensating for this now that you have two seconds slower conditions to drive?
KR: Maybe I somehow go faster at the same time to compensate it! I don’t think that kids make any difference. There are an awful lot of stories based on nothing in F1. I didn’t ever feel that there’s something happening on my driving when our family got bigger – but I don’t know. I guess it depends from people to people also. Sometimes it might have an effect but at least on our side, on my side, I don’t feel it. Obviously the life changes a lot outside of racing but yeah, pure driving they didn’t really effect on my side.
Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) How do you think Formula One will look for race number 2000 in forty or fifty years’ time? Will car racing still exist and what kind of cars could we see on track? Or would you like to see on track?
KR: Yeah, it’s impossible to know what will happen. Probably there will be racing, some sort of racing, who knows what? It’s been 1000 races so I don’t think it’s going to disappear suddenly somehow but who knows? We’ll find out.
Q: (Zoran Zivkov – Top Speed Magazine) When you look at the past and history, if you’d had a time machine, in which period, in which era, would you like to come back?
KR: I’ve gone back for the second one any more. I guess in the past, I would look at seventies, sixties, late sixties, seventies. For sure it would have been more fun, more relaxed, more pure racing but obviously much more dangerous but that’s normal at that time.
Q: We saw you with a James Hunt helmet a few years ago, didn’t we?
KR: Bit more than a few years but yeah.
Q: (Duan Yiyi – Titan Sports) Kimi, no matter which team you are in you always seem to be the fans’ favourite here in China, so from your perspective what characteristics do you have to attract so many fans in China?
KR: I have no idea. You should go and ask them. I think generally in Japan, China we Finnish people seem to have a lot of fans. It’s great, especially here. I cannot go anywhere but that’s a part of… the other side of the fans. I’ve always had a lot of fans here, since the first time we came here so I’m happy about it. I don’t know the reason. I guess you would probably get the answer if you go and ask some in front of our hotel, you can ask them there. Or at the airport.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, RaceFans.net) You may have noticed that in Bahrain McLaren was sponsored by an e-cigarette brand, Vipe. Particularly the three fathers there, how do you feel about this? Do you feel it sets the right sort of example for your children?
KR: No, I have no issue. I don’t see the connection that if my son sees advertising on any of the… doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or cigarettes, something, I don’t believe that that affects his choices whatsoever. That’s my belief on that. Did it affect my choices when I have seen them in the past? Rules are rules, whether you can do it or not, that’s not my business but I have no worries.