The Chinese Grand Prix could provide F1 with drama and Verstappen's victory could slow the march

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing react during the preview of the F1 Grand Prix of China at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China.

Edmond Cho | Good pictures

The Chinese Grand Prix could provide much-needed drama to Formula 1 Red Bulls Max Verstappen Sunday is almost certainly not going to be a winner.

It was the first GP of the season with a sprint race, meaning Friday's practice session was the only weekend. McLaren's Lando Norris went on to secure pole for Saturday's sprint race, with drivers struggling to control their cars during rainy qualifying.

That includes Verstappen.

„It was incredibly slippery and I struggled to get the temperature in the tyres, so it was very difficult to keep the car on the track,” said the three-time world champion. „The car never changed for me, it was like driving on snow, so I think we deserved where we finished in the sprint.”

Verstappen has won 22 of the last 26 GPs and three of the first four this season. Only a brake failure in Australia prevented him from sweeping the first four races. A fifth race could be a challenge even for Verstappen.

„It has some variables and, perhaps, the probability of throwing up some unexpected results,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner said on Friday. „I think it's going to be all action.”

Here's why.

The path is a little unclear. It was the first F1 race in China in five years to be scratched from the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last won in 2019 By Mercedes Lewis Hamilton.

But the biggest unknown is the condition of the racing surface, which has a thin „sealing coating” applied – described as liquid asphalt. Motorists have repeatedly said that it looks like it has been painted. And tire supplier Pirelli said it was not fully aware of the changes to the race.

While it's difficult to draw any firm conclusions, Friday's practice kicked up some unusual names.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll was fastest (1 min, 36.302 sec), followed by McLaren's Oscar Piastre. Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez were 3rd-4th, followed by the two Haas drivers – Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

China's first F1 driver is Zhou Guanyu He was 11th in practice in a saber.

Charles Leclerc hinted on Thursday about Ferrari closing the gap on Red Bull. They are not in practice on Friday. Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz were 13th and 14th.

„Everything we've hoped for is happening in the midst of uncertainty, hopefully it will be an entertaining event in China with some action and some opportunities,” McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said.

He said the tire grip was reduced in the practice session and the tires had more wear from the unfamiliar surface.

The drivers spoke about themselves to the Japanese GP two weeks ago Concerns about Sprint in China The track, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of central Shanghai, was visible on the distant horizon through a faint haze on Friday.

READ  World athletes try to be 'politically neutral' during conflicts, says Sebastian Coe

Horner acknowledged the concern, but the Shanghai circuit is a known quantity, having hosted races since 2004.

„We have a lot of historical data from this region,” he said. „It's not like going back to a brand new place and learning everything all over again.”

Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 Team celebrates his sprint qualifying pole position at Park Fame ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China.

Qian Jun | Good pictures

Sprint qualifying

Norris' qualifying time in the third sprint session was 1 minute, 57.940 seconds. The wet time on Friday was about 20 seconds shorter than when qualifying started in dry conditions.

Norris will start from pole with Hamilton.

Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso will start with Verstappen on the second row. In the 3rd row are Sainz and Perez.

Asked what the racing conditions would be on Saturday, Norris replied: „No clue.”

„It was wet and wet,” Norris said. „I was aquaplaning quite a bit.”

F1 sprints are about a third the length of a regular GP. The top eight drivers earn points — eight for first, seven for second, six for third, and so on.

Qualifiers were delayed due to persistent rain. Leclerc took off and hit a barrier and damaged the front wing on one of his laps.

Several cars were caught in the grip, including Verstappen, who derailed on his lap.

The sprint will be followed later on Saturday by qualifying for Sunday's race.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares in the garage ahead of the sprint qualifying round of the F1 Grand Prix of China at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 19, 2024 in Shanghai, China.

Mark Thompson | Good pictures

Driver's interference

Horner was asked on Friday if Red Bull was in a position to confirm its driver line-up for next season. Verstappen, of course, is under a long-term contract. The question is over Perez, whose contract expires after this season.

Reports continue that Ferrari's signs are a possibility. Hamilton will leave his seat at Ferrari for Mercedes next year. Sainz is also said to be in talks with Audi to take over Sauber for the 2026 season.

„We're in a situation where we're very happy with our two drivers,” Horner said. „We won't have to make a final decision on the lineup until later this year.”

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *