Chinese GP: Bottas quickest in FP3, big crash for Albon

Valtteri Bottas went quickest for Mercedes in what proved to be an unrepresentative final practice session for the 2019 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix.

Chinese GP: Bottas quickest in FP3, big crash for Albon
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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 against the barrier.

Honours were 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 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, 0.734s 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 teammate’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 stopped. 

Red Bull sat out half the 60-minute session before mobilising. Pierre Gasly was first 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.

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. 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.

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 was one midfielder who got a second run in before the red flag and he ended the session eighth. Teammate 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.

The two Alfa Romeos came close to having a contretemps on the back straight shortly after the half-way mark, after which Raikkonen suggested teammate Antonio Giovinazzi had deliberately moved over on him.

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.

Session results

Cla # Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap Interval km/h
1 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 11 1'32.830     211.392
2 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 12 1'33.222 0.392 0.392 210.503
3 16 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 10 1'33.248 0.418 0.026 210.445
4 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 10 1'33.689 0.859 0.441 209.454
5 27 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 11 1'33.974 1.144 0.285 208.819
6 7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari 14 1'34.246 1.416 0.272 208.216
7 33 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda 5 1'34.447 1.617 0.201 207.773
8 55 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren Renault 9 1'34.510 1.680 0.063 207.635
9 23 Thailand Alex Albon Toro Rosso Honda 11 1'34.600 1.770 0.090 207.437
10 26 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Honda 10 1'34.783 1.953 0.183 207.037
11 4 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Renault 11 1'34.938 2.108 0.155 206.699
12 11 Mexico Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes 9 1'35.078 2.248 0.140 206.394
13 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Renault Renault 11 1'35.142 2.312 0.064 206.255
14 18 Canada Lance Stroll Racing Point Mercedes 10 1'35.223 2.393 0.081 206.080
15 10 France Pierre Gasly Red Bull Honda 8 1'35.326 2.496 0.103 205.857
16 99 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari 12 1'35.726 2.896 0.400 204.997
17 8 France Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 14 1'35.771 2.941 0.045 204.901
18 20 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 15 1'35.998 3.168 0.227 204.416
19 63 United Kingdom George Russell Williams Mercedes 10 1'36.124 3.294 0.126 204.148
20 88 Poland Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 11 1'36.176 3.346 0.052 204.038
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