SHANGHAI, China — Weather was the story on the opening day of drills for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai Int’l Circuit Friday.
There was a disjointed start to the weekend’s action as wet and misty weather conditions led to several stoppages and very limited running.
Only 10 cars had either completed or started an installation lap when the session was red flagged for the first time – a result of the medical helicopter being unable to land at the designated hospital in Shanghai.
Running resumed after a 40-minute delay, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen comfortably the fastest of the 14 drivers to set a time.
“The weather played a big part today meaning I managed just two timed laps, I did, however, top the time sheets so that is a nice positive,” Verstappen said. “We haven’t been able to test anything on the car since Australia, and it’s unfortunate that due to the delays today we just didn’t get the running time we had hoped for, it also meant we don’t have a lot of track data to review. I understand the reasons behind not running, the weather simply meant the helicopter couldn’t fly and that is integral to our safety in the case of an accident.
“The balance of the car seemed quite good in the wet but Ferrari and Mercedes weren’t really running so we don’t have a competitive comparison. I think the forecast is looking better tomorrow so at least we will get some dry laps to try a few new things heading into Qualifying, for now the most important thing is laps, the more the better. For the fans it could be good tomorrow as everyone will be making up for lost time, so a lot of track action.”
But before anyone had the chance to beat the Dutchman’s time, the session was red flagged again, this time because weather conditions had forced the closure of the local airport.
Shortly before the stoppage Nico Hulkenberg had beached his Renault in the gravel at turn three following a spin, but thankfully for the German, an early end to proceedings meant it mattered little.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean also had early spins, although both managed to return to the circuit without damage.
With no driver clocking more than eight laps though, all of the teams will be anxious for weather conditions to improve so that they can clock up some decent mileage in FP2.