Practice Session, FP1:
A vast difference from Bahrain to China, am talking about the weather here; it was chilly out there for the teams. There was a lot of running from most of the drivers during the session which saw Alonso topping it for Ferrari and at the same time his teammate couldn’t do more than an installation lap. Rosberg got around at P2 with Ricciardo rounding off the top 3. SFI’s good showing continued as Hulkenberg ended at P5; Perez ended at P15 as towards the end of the session he suffered a DRS problem which limited his running to some extent.
Overall a good start to the weekend on the track which doesn't suit the VJM07 or for the matter the team traditionally, the speed was clearly there, they just had to fine tune the issues.
The conditions in China remained cold and the usual mist continued to disrupt a clear sunny view of the track. A lot of complains about tyre graining from the drivers which could be an interesting factor during the race. Hamilton was back to top after missing out some of FP1, Alonso slotted in at P2 and Rosberg ended at P3. Fast time wise, it was a bit low position for both the SFI drivers as Hulkenberg only managed P11 and Perez was again at P15. The long runs did seemed better for both the drivers.
It was not clear as to why they didn’t manage to clock a good fast time but they did fairly a good job on long runs. There was still some work to do as both drivers pointed out firmly.
Basically a nothing session for everyone as teams opted to do limited running in order to save intermediate and wet tyres for qualifying session which looked like that very much will be a wet one. Ricciardo, Massa and Grosjean lead the pack with some handful of laps done. Hulkenberg got up to P4 while Perez was at P10.
The qualifying aim was simple for the team as they set out to qualify both the cars in Q3 which hasn’t happened for the team yet even though the car has been pretty good all round.
The weather got worse by the first part of qualifying session and we were in for yet another wet qualifying (3 from 4). In conditions like these, the drivers just have to be perfect with their driving making no mistakes and going as fast as possible. Both of our SFI drivers made it through to Q2 in those tricky conditions, there was a bit of scare with Perez but he was safe in the end. Gutierrez failed to make the cut along with the two Marussia and Caterham while Maldonado couldn’t complete any lap in the session.
The only change in the second leg was the change of tyres from wet to intermediate, otherwise it was still raining in China making much more difficult for the drivers; it was evident from the slipping and sliding. The first big casualty of qualifying was Raikkonen, while the other were the McLaren duo, not making it to the top 10. Hulkenberg just made it to Q3 while a struggling Perez only qualified P16, the Mexican was having a troublesome time as he suggested post qualifying that he didn’t have any balance while driving.
Hamilton stamped his authority clinching his third consecutive pole of the season, his last sector of his fastest lap was too much for the Red Bull duo to topple. Thus it was Vettel at P2 and Ricciardo at P3, Rosberg’s mistake on his final lap didn’t proved to be a disaster as he was still P4. Hulkenberg qualified a decent P8 in the end; he too struggled a bit in the wet conditions as his teammate.
The wet qualifying hardly is ideal for anyone and thus it doesn’t show the true performance of the car. Once again SFI missed out on having two cars in Q3 but we could see them struggling in those conditions. Any how, it was looking better for the race as it was predicted to be a dry one and the race pace of the team was quite good on Friday.
The weather made a u-turn in China from what we saw in the qualifying session. It was dry but it was still cold, certainly cold for the tyres. The main issue in China is the mist surrounding the track; the graining on tyres was another battle the drivers had to go through. At the start of the race, Hamilton immediately took the lead and stretched it comfortably while behind him whole lot of drama was on. Rosberg was pushed down to P7 after touching Bottas while Vettel maintained his P2 position as Alonso & Massa banged their wheels but both safe. Hulkenberg moved up two places to P6 while Perez was up to P12 after the opening lap, a good start for both the SFI drivers.
It was a straightforward race in the middle stages as Hamilton kept on stretching his lead; Rosberg meanwhile moved ahead of Hulkenberg, Vettel, Ricciardo & Alonso to move up to P2 behind his teammate. He was hampered by telemetry failure on his car but that didn’t deter him making up places. The TV audience got something to talk about when Vettel was ordered to give way to Ricciardo which he eventually did in few laps time. Alonso was doing a great job in the Ferrari while Massa suffered a pit stop debacle which saw him bottom of the grid at one point.
Hulkenberg was making a steady progress as he slotted himself at P6 again after the first round of pit stops. He had a lonely race from then on as Bottas was a bit far from the German until the end stages of the race. He was driving a good steady race committing no mistake whatsoever. Perez meanwhile had a task in his hands as he made his way up through the field; he was slowly making his way up in the points. He cleared Gutierrez, Button and Grosjean quickly to move up to P9 and in points. From then on he too was having a bit of a lonely race as Raikkonen was far up the road.
Hamilton took his third win of the season, another dominant performance from him in the dominant Mercedes car. Rosberg after facing several troubles ended up at P2, keeping his P1 in DC secured. Alonso finished at P3, maiden podium visit for the Ferrari driver and the team this season and a surprise one in his words. Ricciardo once again beat the quadruple champion Vettel and his teammate thereby stamping his claim in the team early in the season. Hulkenberg finished at P6 after facing some pressure from Bottas in the last few laps while Perez comfortably ended at P9 making it the team's third double point finish this season. It was strange end to the race as the flag was waved a lap earlier and thus the race was recorded as a 54 lap race. Kobayashi found himself in an unfortunate situation as he had overtaken Bianchi on the last lap but as the race was of 54 laps, he had to give back the position to the Marussia driver.
SFI move down to P3 in the CC with 54 points, without any doubt the best start for the team scoring in their first four races. China is traditionally a hard track for the team (opposite to Bahrain) and having done well here, it does indicates the all round ability of the car. With a 2 weeks gap between the first race in Europe, every team will be pushing hard for upgrades including SFI. It is time for the development race to begin.
Thanks for reading.