“But I think respect needs to be kept between all the drivers and you learn how aggressive each individual is and how much risk they willing to take for the positions”. Verstappen ran over Hamilton’s front wing on the exit of the corner, puncturing his left-rear tire and effectively ending his own race. Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes was three-hundredths back with Sebastian Vettel one-tenth down. The victor in Shanghai has started from pole nine times out of 14.
As in FP1, grip was at a premium and Hamilton and Raikkonen were among those to run off track as they explored the limits.
World champion Hamilton had to settle for second then third in the opening two races of the campaign, with technical difficulties costing the Mercedes driver. You can’t believe that Hamilton, in the same circumstances, wouldn’t have attempted the last lap overtake and risked losing everything in pursuit of the win.
Hamilton said: “We performed well but Ferrari outperformed us. We all need everyone to be on it all weekend because it’s a joint effort”.
Yet Mercedes have work to do.
Ralph Ellis looks at two drivers who made different choices last Sunday in Bahrain but both face added scrutiny in China this week as a result.
But Hamilton denied Mercedes was in trouble, saying its wide-ranging problems so far just point to the difficulty of keeping a team firing on all cylinders in each contest.
Teams can choose between the medium, soft and ultrasofts for this race, although the wet weather tyres will also be on standby.
Vettel has a 17-point lead after two races, in which Ferrari have twice beaten Mercedes in strategic battles.
Three teams and their six drivers monopolize the top spots in Formula One nearly every race. Their success has been hard-earned but this year there is no room for complacency.
In need of a win?
Asked what the Dutchman’s reply was, Hamilton said: ‘I don’t really know, there was a lot of noise, but he acknowledged me.’ Doesn’t sound like Max is about to temper his impetuous driving style, then. “This track is good for overtaking anyway so I think we can have a good race judging by our pace”.
So this race should be an interesting test of whether the change has had the desired effect on Ferrari. The course of the season will ebb and flow according to characteristics of circuits but they are in no mood to relinquish their advantage in Shanghai.
Despite his shaky start to the season he is not short of confidence and insists his team are better than Ferrari. “We went through all the procedure together with the FIA, making sure that this thing doesn’t happen again, and it’s in our interest, because we care about our people, before anything else”.