Air of uncertainty in Shanghai

Poor visibility yesterday meant that a basic safety requirement could not be fulfilled as the medical helicopter would not have been able to land at the designated hospital, which is 48km away from the track.
Poor visibility yesterday meant that a basic safety requirement could not be fulfilled as the medical helicopter would not have been able to land at the designated hospital, which is 48km away from the track.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SHANGHAI • China's notoriously murky air cut short practice sessions at Formula One's Chinese Grand Prix yesterday, prompting speculation of a radical schedule shuffle to prevent the race being scuttled entirely.

Smog and damp weather combined to interrupt morning practice and force the cancellation of the afternoon running without Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel logging any timed laps.

Formula One officials also said the race's medical helicopter would not have been able to land at a suitable hospital in the city, where poor visibility had caused a number of commercial flight delays.

With further poor conditions forecast, one option for the organisers could be to bring the race forward from tomorrow to today as a precaution, while Hamilton offered an alternative suggestion.

"Sat program: 3 practice sessions, qualifying Sunday morning and then race. Who's down for the switch up?" he tweeted.

The three-time world champion, who alleviated some of the boredom by running over to the vast main grandstand to throw signed baseball caps to screaming fans, added: "Seriously tho, this could actually be a blessing in disguise. A chance for new bosses to be proactive & be creative."

The Briton later said: "The track was absolutely fine and we could have run all day today with no issue if it weren't for the clouds.

"It's not good for the fans watching on TV and even worse for all those people in the stands who have paid money to come out here from the city or even from other countries."

More than half the drivers got a crack at the boggy circuit during a curtailed morning session, with Max Verstappen of Red Bull getting around the quickest.

Drivers will have a final chance at practice today before afternoon qualifying - if the air clears up.

Times were slow as teams ran full wet tyres yesterday.

It was treacherous going for Kevin Magnussen of Haas, who spun out twice, and Renault's Nico Hulkenberg beached his car on a gravel embankment and had to abandon it.

Hamilton spoke of the "wheel-to-wheel" battles of his go-kart driving days, saying on Thursday that he looked forward to a season-long fight with Vettel.

"I yearn for those kinds of battles," he said. "I'm dying for that day to come again and I hope that happens with me and Sebastian."

Ferrari have shown impressive early pace, with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen taking fourth in Australia and signs pointing to another tight battle between the two top teams in China.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI F1 GRAND PRIX

Practice 3 & qualifying: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 11.55am & 2.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Air of uncertainty in Shanghai'. Print Edition | Subscribe