Hamilton tops tricky opening practice in China

Lewis Hamilton has topped a tricky opening Formula 1 practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix by a comfortable margin.

The Mercedes driver set his 1:33.999s on the Soft compound tyre to put him 0.3s ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari on Ultrasofts, while the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas finished third quickest.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen took fourth and fifth respectively, both on the Ultrasoft rubber, despite a trip through the gravel at the final corner for the latter.

Bahrain Grand Prix race winner Sebastian Vettel only managed sixth fastest on the Ultrasofts, eight tenths off the pace of Hamilton after abandoning a run in the closing stages of the hit out.

The Ferrari driver finished ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and the Renault of Carlos Sainz, while the sister pairings of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten.

Throughout the session, a number of drivers ventured off the road as a combination of the gusty wind and a green circuit made proceedings difficult around the 5.4km Shanghai International Circuit.

Turn 11 and the final corner proved hot spots, with the tricky conditions catching out the likes of Hamilton, Verstappen and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Hamilton opened his account early with a 1:35.218s in the first 30 minutes of the session before improving to a 1:33.9s later on, with most teams sending its cars out to gain laps as the threat of rain increased.

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly finished the session 11th, while the first of the McLaren’s was Fernando Alonso in 12th.

Sergio Perez proved quicker than his Force India team mate with a time to put the Mexican 13th fastest, as Sergey Sirotkin headed the Williams charge in 15th.

Despite reports of a light sprinkle in the mid-stages, the rain held off for the duration of the session.