Hamilton sets early pace at F1 Shanghai Grand Prix

Source: Xinhua| 2018-04-13 16:37:43|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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By Michael Butterworth

SHANGHAI, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was fastest in both Friday's practice sessions for the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix, as the Mercedes driver looks to get back to winning ways in Shanghai.

Having lost the first two races of the season to Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton set the early pace in first practice on Friday morning with a time of 1:33.999, despite a minor off-track excursion. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen ended the session second, with a time of 1:34.358, closely followed by the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

In addition to Hamilton, several other drivers also suffered spins on Friday, with the cold and windy conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit proving difficult to cope with.

The Briton maintained his lead in the afternoon session, improving his time to 1:33.482, though Raikkonen was just 0.007 seconds adrift, with Bottas and Vettel also in close attendance, and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen not far behind the leading quartet.

Elsewhere, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen continued his impressive early season form with a couple of strong drives, and the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg also finished inside the top 10 in both sessions.

But there was trouble for McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne, who stopped out on track shortly before the end of the afternoon session with a loose wheel, in what was the fifth occasion so far in 2018 that an F1 car has left the pits with a tire not properly attached. And Williams look no closer to solving their early season problems, with Lance Stroll finishing at the bottom of the pile in both sessions.

Meanwhile, Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has praised his team's relationship with new engine supplier Honda. The Japanese company had previously supplied engines to McLaren for the past three seasons with little success. But Pierre Gasly's fourth place at the previous round in Bahrain was the best result for a Honda-powered car since the Japanese firm returned to Formula 1 in 2015.

"Toro Rosso has a fantastic relationship with Honda," the Austrian said at Friday's press conference, in response to a question from Xinhua. "We work very closely together, and Honda have worked very hard to come up with a reliable and competitive engine. The last two races proved that this is the case and I am really optimistic for the future."