Massa tops second practice in China

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Felipe Massa has clearly signaled his return to form by finishing quickest in Free Practice 2 for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday.

The Brazilian driver set a quickest time of 1:35.340 to finish the session ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for Lotus, whilst Fernando Alonso underlined Ferrari’s pace by finishing third.

Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, both of whom starred in Free Practice 1 earlier on, managed to finish fourth and fifth, but the Red Bull was over three-quarters of a second behind the leading Ferrari, which could be cause for concern. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton followed, over one second behind Massa, whilst Sebastian Vettel could only finish P10.

FP2 saw teams focus on their long runs in the second half of the session, meaning that Massa’s time set after 41 minutes was not bettered. During the long runs, the Brazilian driver was again impressive, with his engineer Rob Smedley telling him “your pace is not good, it’s incredible.” Similarly, Rosberg and Hamilton showed good long run pace as did the Force India pairing of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

Tire wear was high throughout the session, and many teams found the soft tire troublesome. Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button both locked up on more than one occasion, but things were even worse for Max Chilton who was forced to pull over towards the end of the session due to a car problem. Hamilton said that he “had never seen anything like it” [the tire wear], but Ferrari seemed to manage its Pirelli rubber well.

With varying results in both practice sessions, it is difficult to see a pecking order emerging. This does however mean we are in for a thrilling qualifying tomorrow, although FP3 could reveal some more details a few hours before hand.

You can find the complete classification from Free Practice 2 here.

Ferrari signs Callum Ilott to young driver academy

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Ferrari has confirmed the signing of rising British racer Callum Ilott to its prestigious driver academy ahead of the 2018 season.

Ilott, 18, is a former member of Red Bull’s junior program, and has spent the last three years racing in the FIA European Formula 3 series, taking eight race wins.

After finishing the 2017 season fourth in the championship with Prema Powerteam, Ilott has now linked up with the Ferrari Driver Academy in the next step of his racing career, becoming its first British member.

“Ferrari Driver Academy is pleased to announce that British driver Callum Ilott is the latest promising young driver to be selected for its development program,” an announcement from Ferrari reads.

“18 years old, Ilott joins the FDA in his third season in car racing, having just finished the FIA F3 European Championship. He comes with a strong pedigree in international Formula 3 racing, having made the jump directly from karting as reigning European Champion.

“Ilott joins Charles Leclerc, Antonio Fuoco, Guan Yu Zhou, Giuliano Alesi, Marcus Armstrong and Enzo Fittipaldi in the programme, which supports talented young drivers on their career path in motorsport.”

Besides its existing roster, the Ferrari Driver Academy also played a part in the careers of Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and the late Jules Bianchi.