Bottas quickest in FP3 as Albon crashes

13/04/2019
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 19.2 degrees C, while the track temperature is 38.2 degrees. Like FP1, it is bright and sunny.

While Sebastian Vettel set the pace in that session, Valtteri Bottas led the way in FP2, with Lewis Hamilton struggling in both and left wondering "what the hell is wrong" with his car.

Antonio Giovinazzi missed FP1 due to an engine installation issue, while Daniil Kvyat was sidelined for much of the second session after Honda opted to change his engine, thereby, on this weekend of celebrations, making the Russian the first driver to require a change of Honda power unit this season.

Other than Hamilton's issues, though Ferrari has the edge, though not much of it, Mercedes and Red Bull are very much in the hunt, especially when you take into account that this event usually throws in a few surprises.

Indeed, looking at Ferrari, though the SF90 should be making the most of its power advantage in terms of the long straights here, thus far said advantage has not been that obvious, suggesting that the pendulum-like performance of the car might be swinging back to Melbourne standards as opposed to Bahrain. Certainly, while Ferrari still has the straights, Mercedes has the corners.

The midfield is as fraught as ever, with McLaren looking strong, as do Renault, Raikkonen and Toro Rosso, while Haas is looking a little off colour, not helped by a front wing failure for Grosjean, and Racing Point continues to struggle.

Magnussen is first out, followed by Giovinazzi, Kvyat and Grosjean.

The cameras pick up on Patrick Head in the Williams garage, the team's co-founder back at Grove in a consultancy role. Perhaps a step backwards, but something needs to be done to stop the rot.

Kubica posts the first time of the day, a 37:220, but this is soon beaten by his teammate who crosses the line at 36.630. Both are on the softs.

Clearly in no mad rush to get to work, Hamilton runs over to the pit wall to wave to the fans in the stands opposite.

As the Ferraris head out, Ricciardo goes quickest with the third time of the day, a 35.142.

In the Red Bull garage, Gasly's car is up on its stand.

Leclerc posts 34.104, with Vettel stopping the clock at 33.222 moments later.

A 35.486 sees Raikkonen go fourth, as the Mercedes pair head out. Whereas the Ferraris were on softs, Bottas is on mediums as is Hamilton.

The Finn splits the Ferraris with a 33.974, teammate Hamilton posting 33.956 shortly after.

Albon goes fifth and Kvyat sixth, as Hulkenberg goes seventh, ahead of Norris and Sainz.

While Gasly completed an install lap but is now up on its stand, Verstappen has yet to make an appearance.

At which point... Gasly heads out, on mediums. The Frenchman subsequently posts 35.326 to go 11th. Elsewhere, Verstappen heads out.

Verstappen bangs in a 34.447 to go fifth, albeit 1.225s off Vettel's pace.

Norris is told to be careful with his DRS, the Briton warned that it was "too early".

Still on his mediums, Bottas improves slightly to 33.794, though still 0.572s off Vettel's pace.

Speaking of the German however, he is out of his car which is being worked on by a number of concerned looking mechanics. Problems?

Raikkonen, in his inimitable way, expresses his concern at his teammate. "What the f*** was he doing?" enquires the Finn. "He almost hit me... in the middle of the straight, he almost hit me... on purpose!"

Racing Points tough start to the season continues, the work on the car suggesting a brake issue.

With 15 minutes remaining, attention turns fully to qualifying runs. The Williams pair are first out, followed by Norris.

Though he wasn't looking likely to improve on eighth, Norris gets it all wrong in the final corner and runs wide.

Meanwhile, Vettel is back on track and looking good. He goes quickest in S1, followed by a PB is S2. Like Norris he loses a heap of time following a mistake in the final corner but still improves his time (33.222).

Following a PB is S1, Hamilton aborts his lap, while Leclerc goes second with a 33.248, only to be demoted when Bottas produces a 32.830 to go top, by 0.392s.

On his next flying lap, Hamilton posts PBs in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 33.689 to go fourth. A scrappy lap from the world champion who is clearly still struggling having had to abort his previous lap due to a mistake.

A 33.974 sees Hulkenberg go an impressive fifth, while Raikkonen goes sixth and Sainz eighth.

Out come the yellows and then the red after Albon has a massive crash in the final corner.

Asked if he is OK, the Thai replies "I'm fine", which is more than can be said of the STR14.

It is a big, big crash, the youngster running wide and then losing it as he went over the Astroturf. A passenger, Albon can only wait as the car spins and careers sideways into the barrier that lines the pitlane entrance. It's nothing that a number of other drivers, including Vettel, hadn't done previously, in Albon's case he simply failed to control the car.

Though there are several minutes remaining, the session will not be re-started which is bad news for those drivers still running their qualifying sims.

Bottas is quickest, ahead of Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Sainz, Albon and Kvyat.

Norris is eleventh, ahead of Perez, Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Grosjean, Magnussen, Russell and Kubica.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Shanghai, here.

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Published: 13/04/2019
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