Max third quickest on Chinese GP opening day: 'Balance is good'

Published on 12 April 2019 by Stefan Meens

Max Verstappen ended the Friday of the Chinese Grand Prix in third position. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) was quickest ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Max’ Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team mate, Pierre Gasly, was tenth fastest.

“It’s too early to say if we can mix it at the front”, said Max after FP2. “But things are looking better than Bahrain. I’m happy with that. We figured out the issue there, so we expected to be better here. I think we had a good balance in the car. I’m happy about that too.”

The Dutchman also reflected on his long-run pace in the RB15: “It was OK. The soft tyres are weak because they wear down quickly. That makes it less fun to drive, because you are constantly trying to save tyres.”

At the start of the session, Antonio Giovinazzi is first out on track. The Alfa Romeo driver is keen to gain all the track time he can get after his car was plagued by technical issues in the first practice session.

Sebastian Vettel is the first of the front runners to take to the circuit, followed by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The former spins in turn three on his out lap. The latter also spins his Merc on his out lap, but does so in turn one.

Fifteen minutes into the session, Max heads out. On the medium Pirelli tyre, he just misses out on bettering Charles Leclerc’s benchmark. Moments later, Hamilton, does go top.

After half an hour, most teams bolt on the soft tyres for qualifying simulations. Vettel is straightaway on the pace, clocking the fastest lap. That joy is short lived as Valotteri Bottas claims the top spot back for Mercedes.

The Red Bulls have also gone out on the soft tyres, with Max managing the third fastest time. Team mate Gasly struggles and sits in tenth.

In the final half an hour, all teams shift their focus to the long runs. Max heads out for a lengthier stint of the soft Pirellis. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari is stranded in the garage due to cooling issues.

In the closing stages Max switches to a set of the medium compound on a track that is increasingly busy. Nevertheless, lap times are not bettered, meaning Max ends Friday in Shanghai in third place. Upon returning to the pits at the end of the session, Max tells the team: “It doesn’t feel right, like something’s wrong with the clutch.”

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Results second free practice China:

1Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:33.330 37
2Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:33.357+0.027s33
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:33.551+0.221s29
4Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:34.037+0.707s32
5Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:34.096+0.766s31
6Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:34.141+0.811s36
7Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:34.158+0.828s13
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:34.296+0.966s38
9Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:34.336+1.006s32
10Pierre GaslyGASRed Bull Racing Honda1:34.455+1.125s32
11Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:34.551+1.221s33
12Alexander AlbonALBScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:34.634+1.304s37
13Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:34.694+1.364s20
14Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:34.779+1.449s37
15Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:34.784+1.454s35
16Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:34.788+1.458s34
17Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:35.704+2.374s32
18Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:35.914+2.584s40
19Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes1:36.121+2.791s38
20George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:36.229+2.899s35