Chinese GP: Lewis takes superb P2 in wet Sprint Qualifying

Lewis starts the first F1 Sprint Race of the season in Shanghai from the front row, George starts from P11

The risk of rain was 60% at the start of the Sprint Qualifying session and the track temperatures were very cool.

Both Lewis and George did not have their tyres in the best window on their runs in SQ1, but made it through to the second session in P12 and P13.

In SQ2 the weather played a decisive role. Right at the start of the session, the drivers lined up at the pit exit to get out on track as quickly as possible.

Towards the end of SQ2, the long threat of rain materialised – and caught George out cold. While Lewis made it into SQ3 in P9, George was unable to complete his second run due to the onset of rain and finished the session in P11.

Due to the rain, the track was wet and slippery at the start of SQ3, which caused some drivers to spin or leave the track.

Lewis coped well with the conditions and set the fastest time on the rain-soaked track in the final seconds of SQ3, beaten only by Lando Norris in the McLaren, whose time had been deleted but then reinstated.

This means that pole position for the first F1 Sprint Race of the season goes to Lando Norris ahead of Lewis in P2. A great job by Lewis and the team in incredibly difficult circumstances.

Non-representative FP1 session interrupted by grass fire
The race weekend began with a busy first free practice session, in which the team focused primarily on understanding the track surface of the Shanghai International Circuit and learning more about the behaviour of the new generation of cars and the Pirelli tyre compounds.

To complicate matters, it’s a Sprint weekend so the team only had a solitary hour of practice before the start of the Sprint Qualifying later in the day.

The return to China was unexpectedly interrupted after 15 minutes in FP1 because a small piece of grass next to the track was on fire in turn 7.

The grass fire was most likely caused by sparks from one of the cars, but was quickly extinguished so that the drivers and teams were able to resume the session after a brief interruption.

There was also a similar incident towards the end of SQ1, as a result of which the start of SQ2 was delayed by a few minutes.

All in all, it was an unusual and above all unrepresentative FP1, with the track offering very little grip throughout. George and Lewis only used one set of the Hard compound tyres and finished the session in P17 and P18 respectively.

The action continues on Saturday morning at 11:00 local time (04:00 UK time), when the drivers will start the day directly with the F1 Sprint Race due to the new weekend format. Qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix will then follow on Saturday afternoon at 15:00 local time (09:00 UK time).

Lewis Hamilton
It was very tricky conditions out there. As you could see, there was not a lot of grip out there for anyone. As soon as I saw the rain coming though, I was getting very excited. Our pace in the dry didn’t look quite quick enough to challenge at the very front, so the wet weather gave us more of an opportunity. That’s when it all came alive.

We will have to wait and see what the conditions are tomorrow. We have a lot of fast cars starting behind us, but we will see what we can do to keep them behind us.

George Russell
It wasn’t easy at all out there. I got one lap in SQ2 before the rain arrived, which was frustrating. We tried to get out on track as soon as we could, as we knew the rain was coming. We got stuck behind several cars in the pitlane and lost a lot of tyre temperature. We were still close to going through; one more tenth and we would have made it, so it was a shame to be on the bottom end of that.

Who knows what would have happened if we had got through to SQ3. Nevertheless, we’ve got a chance to recover in the Sprint tomorrow though. After that, we’ve got Qualifying for the Grand Prix in the afternoon and that is what really matters.

Source and more info : Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team