SHANGHAI (AFP) – Sebastian Vettel fired a warning as he powered his Ferrari to the fastest time in first practice at the milestone Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on Friday.
For what will be the 1,000th Formula One race, the four-time world champion clocked a best time of one minute 33.911 seconds, with Mercedes’ reigning title-holder Lewis Hamilton 0.207 secs behind.
Third fastest was Vettel’s young Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, 0.256 secs off the pace, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes.
But the session belonged to Germany’s Vettel, 31, who has been under pressure after a series of unforced errors stretching back to last season.
He has been struggling with the set-up of his Ferrari and admitted on Thursday that he was still not really at home in it.
Vettel finished fourth in the season-opening race in Melbourne and was then fifth in Bahrain, where he was eclipsed by team-mate Leclerc, who is 10 years his junior.