Chinese Grand Prix – Ferrari claimed the top two positions in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at Shanghai’s International Circuit.
Ferrari claimed the first two places in FP3, with Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel’s time of 1:33.018, set on the UltraSoft tyre, was enough to put him almost half a second clear of Raikkonen’s best, also on the purple marked Pirellis.
Closest competitor to the Ferraris in the cold, slippery conditions were, unsurprisingly, Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas set a 1:33.761 to go 0.7 seconds slower than the Ferrari, although the Finnish driver set his best time on the yellow marked Soft tyres. Max Verstappen went P4 for Red Bull Racing, despite spending most of the session complaining about an intermittent power issue at the top end of the rev range. His best time was 1:33.969, 0.9 down on Vettel’s time.
Lewis Hamilton finished P5 in the second Mercedes, having really struggled with a lack of grip. Constant small errors saw the reigning Champion run wide a few times, and he also had a dramatic spin halfway through the session. Exiting Turn 10, he ran wide over the wet Astroturf and kept his foot in but lost control and spun. He was able to recover and get back to the pits. His best time, just like Bottas’, was set on the Soft tyre.
Daniel Ricciardo also had a calamitous session, with the Red Bull driver suffering an apparent engine failure along the back straight approaching the hairpin. He couldn’t make it back to the pits and was forced out. Assuming the fire and smoke were caused by an engine or turbo failure, the team face an uphill task to get the car repaired in time for qualifying.
Kevin Magnussen finished P6 for Haas, with a great late time on the Soft tyres putting him ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez & Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz finished P9 for Renault, with Sergey Sirotkin giving Williams a glimmer of hope of a stronger weekend by claiming P10.