Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in dry final Chinese GP practice

Leave a comment

Sebastian Vettel headed up a one-two finish for Ferrari in the final Formula 1 practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday as drivers got the chance to complete some dry running in Shanghai.

After losing the majority of Friday’s running due to thick fog in the city that prevented the medical helicopter from operating, drivers were pleased to arrive at the Shanghai International Circuit in dry conditions on Saturday morning.

The final hour of running before qualifying was busy as drivers pushed to make up for the time lost, with teams splitting programs in a bid to gather data on both optimum tire compounds.

All drivers made the switch to super-softs for the final third of the session in order to complete their qualifying simulations, with Vettel laying down an impressive marker of 1:33.336 early on.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled to get close with their first attempts, going over three-quarters of a second slower, spiking concern for the Silver Arrows, particularly when Kimi Raikkonen rose to second place in the second Ferrari.

Both drivers rallied later in the session, though, with Bottas lapping 0.371 seconds off Vettel’s time. Hamilton had been due to go even quicker, going faster than Vettel in the first sector, only to then run wide at the hairpin. The Briton still improved, but ended the session fourth, half a second off the pace.

Ferrari’s one-two finish acted as a warning shot to Mercedes, putting the Italian marque in the pound seat to claim its first pole since Singapore 2015 in qualifying later today.

Outside of the Ferrari/Mercedes stronghold, Felipe Massa finished as the best of the rest in fifth place for Williams, with the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo following in P6 and P7.

Ahead of his second F1 race, Lance Stroll put in an impressive display to finish eighth for Williams, with Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounding out the top 10 in P9 and P10 respectively.

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 3am ET.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne