Raikkonen tops FP2, as Ferrari take the challenge to Mercedes in China


Credit: Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen topped the times in the second Free Practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, ahead of Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the Maranello based squad turning the tide on Mercedes and going four tenths of a second clear at the top, ahead of the race on Sunday.

The Finn set a superb time of 1:36.896 to go P1 on the super soft tyre compound during the first half of the FP2 session when teams were completing their qualifying simulations. Before Raikkonen’s time, team-mate Vettel had just gone quickest to move the Silver Arrows drivers down the order to P3 and P4. Ferrari looked strong on the super soft tyre, something that was prevalent in pre-season testing, where as the Mercedes favoured the harder compound tyres.

Nico Rosberg initially led the session, setting times on both the medium and super soft tyres, with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton not far behind. The Brit was seemingly less at ease than the German who has all the momentum going into this weekend, Hamilton was much more prone to getting out of shape as he completed his lap.

At the start of the session, the Renault Sport F1 team confirmed that Kevin Magnussen would not be going out on track during FP2, as the cause of the Dane’s FP1 tyre problems was still unknown and they did not want to risk anything until investigations were complete. The team did however send out team-mate Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault.

There was more bad luck for Esteban Gutierrez, who after suffering from engine issues in FP1, arrived into the pits with his rear brakes on fire. The pit crew swiftly got out the fire extinguishers to dull the flames blazing from the wheels of the VF-16, but Gutierrez was consigned to the pits for the remainder of the time, as the team worked hard to resolve the brake issues. The Mexican was only able to complete six laps across both Friday sessions. Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean was also not without problems, with the Frenchman complaining over the team radio that “the MGU-K is not behaving as it should this morning, I just got a massive push in the last corner”.

With thirty minutes of the session gone, the Mercedes runners were first to use the super soft tyres, with Rosberg initially taking the top spot, ahead of teammate Hamilton, before Daniel Ricciardo‘s run in the Red Bull split the pair. All looked to be going to plan for the Silver Arrows squad, until the Ferrari drivers had other ideas. First Vettel took the top spot, going one tenth clear of Rosberg’s benchmark time, before Raikkonen, having complained over team radio a number of times that his lap was ruined, blasted to the top of the leader board, four tenths up on the first Mercedes of the German now in third.

By the hour mark, the drivers had completed their qualifying simulations, with long runs then the order of the day for the remainder of the session. After his super soft run, Rosberg headed out on the soft tyre whilst Hamilton opted for the medium compound, as Mercedes looked to split their strategy to compile data for the race. From their on in, due to the differing team schedule’s during the second half of FP2, it was impossible to tell who had the edge on anyone else, and the lap times did not change.

Ricciardo completed the session best of the rest in the Red Bull, finishing in fifth but over a second down on Raikkonen’s lead time. The Australian was just ahead of Max Verstappen for sister team Toro Rosso, with Nico Hulkenberg again the top Force India in seventh. Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth, with Valtteri Bottas completing the top ten in the Williams.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, who has been cleared to compete in the rest of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, was eleventh, just ahead of team-mate Jenson Button in twelfth. The Woking based squad ended their session ten minutes early, happy with the data they had already gathered.

Felipe Massa, who had been unable to set a time in the morning session, due to two freak tyre blowouts, made up for lost time in the Williams, completing 34 laps and ending the session in fourteenth.

Jolyon Palmer, running in the sole Renault, ended the session in fifteenth, just ahead of Grosjean in the Haas. Pascal Wehrlein was seventeenth, ahead of both Sauber’s and Manor Racing team-mate Rio Haryanto, with Gutierrez bringing up the rear following his brake issues earlier in the session.

Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 7 Kimi Räikkönen RAI Ferrari 1:36.896 35
2 5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari 1:37.005 +0.109s 33
3 6 Nico Rosberg ROS Mercedes 1:37.133 +0.237s 33
4 44 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:37.329 +0.433s 33
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RIC Red Bull Racing 1:38.143 +1.247s 31
6 33 Max Verstappen VES Toro Rosso 1:38.268 +1.372s 28
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Force India 1:38.527 +1.631s 31
8 55 Carlos Sainz SAI Toro Rosso 1:38.542 +1.646s 32
9 11 Sergio Perez PER Force India 1:38.569 +1.673s 31
10 77 Valtteri Bottas BOT Williams 1:38.723 +1.827s 34
11 14 Fernando Alonso ALO McLaren 1:38.728 +1.832s 31
12 22 Jenson Button BUT McLaren 1:38.828 +1.932s 28
13 26 Daniil Kvyat KVY Red Bull Racing 1:39.178 +2.282s 31
14 19 Felipe Massa MAS Williams 1:39.214 +2.318s 34
15 30 Jolyon Palmer PAL Renault 1:39.774 +2.878s 32
16 8 Romain Grosjean GRO Haas 1:39.890 +2.994s 22
17 94 Pascal Wehrlein WEH Manor 1:39.941 +3.045s 36
18 9 Marcus Ericsson ERI Sauber 1:39.979 +3.083s 35
19 88 Rio Haryanto HAR Manor 1:40.550 +3.654s 33
20 12 Felipe Nasr NAS Sauber 1:41.066 +4.170s 32
21 21 Esteban Gutierrez GUT Haas 1:42.954 +6.058s 4