An update from the weekend's FP1, FP2 and FP3 Practice sessions at the Chinese Grand Prix.
It's big, it's bold and even after a decade of racing in China, it's still a little bewildering (especially when each year you're confronted by a new garage order and the same maze-like, lagoon complex of stilt-house hospitality suites) but despite its logistical challenges, there's a lot to like about the Shanghai International Circuit.
First up, it's a pretty tricky circuit to get right. It's got an apparently straightforward blend of long straights, fiddly bits and medium-speed sweeps, but the way all those sections are configured means that, unusually, this circuit is front-limited, with the bulk of the stress being placed on the front axle.
While it's the front-left that takes most of the punishment too, keeping the whole set alive will be one of the key considerations this weekend as not only do the track's demands on traction mean the rears take a bit of a beating too, the cool temperatures mean that there is also a risk of tyre graining, while the abrasive surface leads to greater than normal degradation.
A much disrupted Free Practice One got the track action started in Shanghai with some drivers suffering numerous tyre punctures on the circuit. Circuit checks and the clearance of debris limited much of the running, but it would still see Daniel take P4 with a 1:39.061, completing 12 laps. Daniil finished in P6 with a 1:39.625 after 14 laps. Nico Rosberg topped the timesheet with a 1:38.037.
A far more straightforward Free Practice Two session saw both drivers make up for lost time with 62 laps between them during the session. A 1:38.143 put Daniel in P5 as he completed 31 laps while Dany saw a 1:39.178 put him in P13 after the same 31 lap count. Topping the timesheets was Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen with a 1:36.896.
Saturday welcomed much more thunderous conditions. As the rain arrived, so did the wet tyres as the whole grid took their time in dipping their foot in the water for the session. Daniel completed 3 laps and Dany 4 laps as both drivers aborted their flying laps in the conditions. Of the 14 drivers to set a time, Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets with a 1:57.351.