Shanghai (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton was quickest in the opening free practice on Friday at the Chinese Grand Prix, where Mercedes is anxious for a first win of the season on a track where the British world champion dominates.
Hamilton shrugged off a spin to finish four tenths of a second faster than Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen driving for arch-rivals Ferrari in blustery conditions in Shanghai.
Mercedes are keen to get back on track after Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel raced to victory in Australia to open the Formula One season and followed up with a tense triumph over the champions last weekend in Bahrain.
Both Vettel and Hamilton are chasing a fifth world title this year, but the Englishman has the edge in Shanghai as the most successful driver in the 14-year history of the race with five wins.
His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was third in Friday’s morning practice, followed by the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Verstappen, who angered Hamilton by colliding with him in Bahrain, dodged disaster when the aggressive Dutchman spun off the track early in the session, though he avoided a damaging crash.
Germany’s Vettel finished sixth, nearly nine-tenths of a second off Hamilton’s pace.
Mercedes are focussed on bouncing back from problems that have plagued them since the start of the season, ranging from software bugs to communication problems and grid penalties.