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Chinese Grand Prix – Practice Sessions

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The Chinese Grand Prix presented a marked contrast to conditions in Malaysia two weeks ago, with ambient temperatures around 20 degrees centigrade today.

In the past, these cool temperatures have often resulted in ‘graining’ – a phenomenon that occurs here when the tread surface cools down on the long straights. As a result, the compound loses its mechanical resistance and the tire surface becomes brittle, resulting in a distinctive pattern of wear.

On this occasion, despite low track temperatures, the medium compound experienced no graining and the soft compound had minimal graining throughout both sessions. Unusually, FP2 turned out to be a bit cooler than FP1, going against the normal pattern.

The performance gap between the two compounds has proved to be around 1.7 seconds, as anticipated before the cars took to the track, but this is likely to come down over the course of the weekend when the asphalt rubbers in. This performance gap (in line with the difference seen in Melbourne, where the same compounds were nominated) will provide plenty of opportunities for strategy in a race where tactics traditionally makes an important difference. With the longest straight of the year and a number of overtaking opportunities, there is also plenty of scope to make up places on track.

Mercedes was quickest in both free practice sessions today, with Lewis Hamilton. Both fastest times he set were quicker than the equivalent session times last year.

Paul Hembery: “The main thing today is that there’s been very little graining despite the cool temperatures here, which is a positive step and has allowed the teams to prepare for the race effectively so far. The performance gap between the two compounds is close to what we expected, and we would anticipate a two-stop strategy to be the most likely option for the race on Sunday.”

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