CHINESE GP: FREE PRACTICE

An update from Free Practice for the Chinese Grand Prix as the Bulls get up and running in Shanghai.

There is something otherworldly about the Shanghai International Circuit, even when it isn’t swathed in fog, with the grandstand bridges occasionally glimpsed through the gloom, looking like zeppelins hovering over the start-finish straight. F1 is a big sport but it’s conducted on a local scale. The entire circus packs into a paddock that is at-least full, and frequently bursting at the seam with people, equipment, noise and intrigue. China is the exception. It isn’t like that. The Shanghai International Circuit has been built on an epic scale, but F1 doesn’t scale-up for it, which means everything feels a little lost in the vastness.

Formula One celebrates its 1000th grand prix this weekend. It's a momentous event – even for a team of our comparatively recent vintage. In fact, with the number of races steadily increasing year-on-year, we’ve been around for longer than people would credit: this is our 269th race, putting us 12th on the all-time list of F1 participants.

And our weekend started with Friday's Free Practice One session. This saw the Bulls make the most of the track time around the Shanghai International Circuit. Max finished the session in P4 posting a 1:34.334 after his 20 laps. Pierre was P7 with a 1:35.428 from his 23 laps.

The final track action of Friday, Free Practice Two, saw the Bulls continue to lay down the laps. Max was P3 with a 1:33.551 from 29 laps. And Pierre finishes P10 posting 1:34.455 after 32 laps.

Saturday's Free Practice Three came to a premature end after Toro Rosso driver Alexander Albon crashed coming into the start/finish straight. However, Max finished P7 posting a 1:34.447 from his five laps. Pierre was P15 after a 1:35.326 from eight laps.

After Friday's sessions, Max said:

“Today has been pretty good. We have a good balance in the car and not too many issues, so I’m pretty happy. Of course there was a question mark coming here after Bahrain but we were all quite confident that if we could solve the issue we would be a lot closer, which I think we have shown today. The long runs were alright but it is all about managing your tyres over a race distance here, but that’s the same for everyone. Overall, I’m happy with the pace so far and tonight we just need to fine tune the set-up. I think pole position will be tough tomorrow and it’s too early to say exactly where we are but we’re a lot closer, so hopefully in the race we can mix it up.”

Summarising his day on track, Pierre added:

“I always want more, but I’m quite happy with the programme today. I think we have a good direction and Max showed that the car has good potential. We tested a lot of things between FP1 and FP2, we were pushing the development as much as we could, so now we need to analyse every part we used today. In FP2 I had quite a big moment in the third sector on the fastest lap and lost a bit of time, so it’s actually not really representative for the potential of the car. I think we need to focus on tomorrow now and improve my set-up. Also the degradation of the tyres is always difficult here, as the track layout is really tough for the fronts, especially the front left tyre. It is important to find a compromise between qualifying and the race here, but the Team has the experience and the knowledge so I’m sure we’ll find the right direction for tomorrow.”