Lewis Hamilton pipped Kimi Raikkonen to the fastest time in the second Formula 1 free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix by just seven-thousandths of a second. Scuderia Ferrari’s Finnish driver set the pace on the first runs in the session on soft Pirellis, just over a tenth-of-a-second ahead of Hamilton. The Mercedes driver then became the first frontrunner to complete a qualifying simulation on ultrasofts to go top with just over an hour of the 90-minute session remaining.
Hamilton, who had a brief off during his first run after locking up while going past Esteban Ocon’s Force India and another late in the session when back on softs, set his best session time of 1m33.482s despite an oversteery moment in the final corner. Kimi was the last of the frontrunners to bolt on ultrasofts, ending up seven-thousandths slower and relegating the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to third place – just 0.033s adrift of Hamilton’s pace.
The Ferrari driver looked to have the pace to take top spot but had to go around the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson into Turn 11, which potentially cost him enough to make the difference between first and second. Sebastian Vettel, in the second Ferrari, was fourth with the top four drivers covered by just 0.108s.
Max Verstappen was also in touch with the front runners, lapping within four-tenths of Hamilton’s time. However his team mate Daniel Riccairdo didn’t get the best from his ultra-soft rubber, and as the tyres only appeared to be good for a single run, he ended the session ninth.
The Red Bulls were separated by the two Renaults, led by Nico Hulkenberg, who in turn had Kevin Magnussen’s Haas between them. An error by Romain Grosjean left him well behind his team mate.
Fernando Alonso’s McLaren made it into the top 10 thanks to a slipstream from team mate Stoffel Vandoorne. The team asked Vandoorne to help his team mate with a tow on the long back straight.
However Vandoorne’s session came to an early end when he had to stop with a loose wheel. Not for the first time in 2018, a team is under investigation for releasing a car from the pits in an unsafe condition.
For the second session in a row Lance Stroll finished at the bottom of the times. A high-speed spin underlined his continuing struggles with the Williams.
Rain began to fall with just over 10 minutes of the session left sent several drivers into the pits. A handful re-emerged with intermediate tyres on their cars for some extra running.