The second practice session for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix did not take place as poor weather meant the Formula 1 medical helicopter could not operate in accordance with the championship’s regulations.
Low cloud over Shanghai meant the medical helicopter was not able to land at the designated emergency hospital, so even though aircraft could fly at the Shanghai International Circuit, no on-track action took place.
The lack of running in FP2 leaves the field very short of practice running after Friday’s earlier FP1 session was also heavily disrupted by the same weather and medical helicopter issues.
F1 race director Charlie Whiting explained in an interview that was broadcast during FP2 – the session clock started on time and counted down the 90 minutes until it was called off – and he explained the situation preventing the medical helicopter from operating as planned.
“At the moment it can’t land at the hospital, which is about 38km away unfortunately. It looks reasonable here I know and there are helicopters flying here but they can’t land at the airport, which is downtown Shanghai unfortunately,” he said.
“We’re getting news from the airport, which is also affected by the low cloud, every ten minutes. So we’re just keeping up with that. [If things don’t change] there will be no practice. We have a fixed end to the session so if it’s not clear by 3.30pm, there won’t be a P2.”
That scenario was what eventually came to pass and the session was eventually called off with just over ten minutes of the designated time remaining. Many drivers were filmed sitting in their cars as they waited in vain for conditions to change while Lewis Hamilton waved to fans from the pitwall before later venturing out across the track to hand out Mercedes caps to fans in the main grandstand.
FP1 was delayed for more than 45 minutes due to the medical helicopter problem, and the track was wet after an earlier rain shower. The drivers that did appear when that session did eventually get going – only 14 would set a timed lap – came out on the full wets before quickly changing to the intermediates, and they all only completed a handful of laps.
Max Verstappen topped the times with a 1m50.491s for Red Bull, which was 1.595s quicker than Williams’ Felipe Massa, who was second.
Lance Stroll ended up third in the second Williams, 0.421s slower than his team-mate, with Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean in fourth and fifth for Toro Rosso and Haas F1.
Daniil Kvyat was sixth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, while Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten.
Nico Hulkenberg finished 11th, and the Renault driver caused a virtual safety car by spinning off at Turn 3 as FP1 entered its final third. By the time the marshals had recovered his RS17 a change in the weather meant the medical helicopter problem returned and the session was eventually called off with four minutes left to run on the FP1 clock.
Stoffel Vandoorne was 12th for McLaren, ahead of the Sauber pair of Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi.
The rest of the drivers – including Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari drivers – did not set a flying lap time.
New wet tyres get grand prix weekend debut
The wet running in FP1 did at least mean Pirelli’s 2017 wet weather tyres were given their first test on a grand prix weekend.
The new wet and intermediate rubber was tested on the final day of the first pre-season test in Barcelona, but they were only given limited running as the pre-soaked track quickly dried.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola explained that the crossover points for the full wets to intermediates would be different this season and that the new tyres meant the drivers could set significantly quicker times than they could with their predecessors.
He said: “Today was the GP debut for our 2017-specification wet and intermediate tyres. We also have a wet weather tyre in a different compound with the target of providing more grip. Its test wasn’t particularly significant due to the lack of running.
“However, we did see a fastest time from Max Verstappen that was seven seconds faster than the intermediate tyre in China last year. With both the wet and intermediate tyres being new this year, the crossover points are different and we saw the teams experimenting with those in FP1.
“The weather forecast still seems uncertain for the next few days so it’s hard to know what to expect tomorrow and for the race.”
Although there was a limited amount of running in FP1 due to the various disruptions – Magnussen completed the most laps with a total of eight tours – estimates on the new cross-over been the wets and the intermediates can be made.
Sector 1 in China will be 29.3-29.8s (which is 116-118% of a dry time and was 114% back in 2014). Sector 2 will be 35.6-37.0s (which is 123-124% of a dry time and was 122% in 2014), while Sector 3 is expected to be 49.9-50.5s (which is 117-119% of a dry time and was 118% in 2014).
Chinese Grand Prix FP1 results
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m50.491s, 4 laps
2 Felipe Massa Williams 1m52.086s +1.595s, 7 laps
3 Lance Stroll Williams 1m52.507s +2.016s, 7 laps
4 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1m52.840s +2.349s, 5 laps
5 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1m53.039s +2.548s, 6 laps
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m53.314s +2.823s, 4 laps
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1m53.520s +3.029s, 5 laps
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m54.038s +3.547s, 7 laps
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m54.664s +4.173s, 4 laps
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1m55.104s +4.613s, 8 laps
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m55.608s +5.117s, 6 laps
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m57.445s +6.954s, 4 laps
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 2m15.138s +24.647s, 4 laps
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber 2m15.281s +24.790s, 4 laps
15 Jolyon Palmer Renault No time set 3 laps
16 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari No time set 2 laps
17 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari No time set 1 laps
18 Esteban Ocon Force India No time set 2 laps
19 Sergio Perez Force India No time set 3 laps
20 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes No time set 2 laps
What did you make of the limited practice running for the Chinese Grand Prix? How do you think it will influence the rest of the weekend? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.