Team Principals, Managers and drivers are meeting later today to discuss moving the Chinese Grand Prix race to Saturday amidst concerns that the weather may be too poor on Sunday to run. Shipping issues due to the back-to-back schedule with the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend means that it is not possible to move the race to Monday, an option that may have been preferable given that it will be difficult to run FP3, Quali and the race on Saturday.
Max Verstappen topped FP1 and was just ahead of the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll. The first practice session was a stop-start affair, with heavy fog preventing the medical helicopter that is mandatory for every race weekend from flying. There was no running in FP2 at all as conditions slightly worsened, the local airport even cancelling all flights due to the heavy fogs.
It means that the usual sessions in which all teams establish and fine-tune set-up and gain an impression of the stint lengths on various dry tyres hasn’t happened yet. So the fog isn’t just falling over the Shanghai circuit, but also for the running order this weekend, the picture remains a mystery.
Jody Egginton, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Toro Rosso summed up the general mood around the F1 paddock well, saying,
“Unfortunately, the restrictions affecting the medical helicopter today have meant our running has been limited. However, safety is of paramount importance, so we accept this as something we have to deal with.
In FP1 we managed a couple of timed laps with both cars and, given we did not manage any running on the intermediate tyre in winter testing, these laps have been very useful – they’ve provided a first view of not only the intermediate tyre but also the requirements regarding aero balance, brake, differential and engine settings, and this data is very important. With no running in FP2, we will now prepare the cars for Saturday and adjust run programmes so that we can cover as much ground as possible in the one hour session tomorrow. We can expect it to be a very busy one.”
– Jody Egginton
Given that there was very little learned, FP3 suddenly becomes a much more significant session and teams will be hoping to pack the hour session with long and short runs. Pirelli claim that the Intermediate tyres in which all cars have been running are up to 7-seconds a lap quicker around the Shanghai circuit, but this running will become irrelevant should the dry compounds be needed for the sessions that count.
The lack of running, along with the brand new cars sets up a free-for-all race this weekend, where the drivers who can quickly acclimatise to the circuit and take risks will be the ones who reap the rewards.