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Red flag delays scupper China FP1 running, Verstappen quickest for Red Bull

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Max Verstappen led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in opening Formula 1 practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, squeezing a lap in as the majority of the session was red flagged due to poor weather conditions.

FP1 started with rain falling and was suspended after just four minutes when race control reported that the medical helicopter was unable to land at the local airport due to the poor visibility and weather conditions.

A 30-minute delay followed as conditions improved marginally, with the session eventually returning to green and allowing drivers to get out on the intermediate tire.

Verstappen managed to put in a lap of 1:50.491 for Red Bull, finishing 1.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field, but running was soon scrapped once again when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg spun off at Turn 2. With his car beached, Hulkenberg had to walk back to the pits, with the marshals left to recover the R.S.17.

Minutes later, the session was red flagged once again, with race control declaring that the local airport had been closed entirely due to the poor weather conditions.

The final 25 minutes of the session ticked by without any track activity, with the checkered flag eventually emerging to bring an end to a largely fruitless practice for the F1 field.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.