Max Verstappen tops in first China GP free practice

Max Verstappen topped the first Formula 1 free practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, which was disrupted by two lengthy red flag periods.

The Red Bull driver made the best of the very limited running on offer, emerging from the garage on the intermediate tyres at just the right time to end up 1.5s clear of Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll.

It took more than 45 minutes for the session to properly get going, thanks to a lengthy red flag.

The stoppage was initially called shortly after the session had started, due to weather conditions in Shanghai being unsuitable for the medical helicopter to land at the hospital if needed.

It wasn't until 47 minutes after the session started that the track went green again.

While not actually raining the circuit was still wet, the majority of drivers appearing on wets before quickly switching to intermediates.

The changeover proved a little tricky for the Haas drivers, both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean spinning on the intermediates.

It was Lance Stroll that set the first step forwards on the inters, moving from a 1m54.508s to a 1m52.507s to go fastest.

Verstappen then proved beyond doubt that the intermediate was the best tyre, moving ahead of Stroll with a 1m52.266s before immediately improving to a 1m50.491s.

That wound up being the best time of the session. With half an hour to go a virtual safety car was called while crews retrieved Nico Hulkenberg's beached Renault from the Turn 3 gravel trap after a spin.

By the time that was cleared, the red flag was back out as conditions grounded the medical helicopter again. With four minutes to run, and no sign of improvement in the weather, the session was called off.

Verstappen ended up 1.5s clear of the two Williams cars, with Grosjean splitting Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat behind the top three.

Fernando Alonso was the last of the drivers in the 1m53s in seventh, with Daniel Ricciardo down in eighth, 3.5s slower than his team-mate, having been one of the few drivers to stay out under VSC conditions in the hope of getting some more meaningful running.

The premature end to the session meant none of the Mercedes or Ferrari drivers were anywhere near the front of the field. Valtteri Bottas did the most running of the 'big four', just four laps on the wet tyres leaving him ninth in the times.

Lewis Hamilton didn't set a time, having been strapped in ready for a run right as the second red flag was called.

It was a similar story for Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, neither setting a time.

China GP Free Practice 1
POSDRIVERCARTIMEGAPLAPS
1Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault1m50.491s-4
2Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1m52.086s1.595s7
3Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes1m52.507s2.016s7
4Carlos SainzToro Rosso/Renault1m52.840s2.349s5
5Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1m53.039s2.548s6
6Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Renault1m53.314s2.823s4
7Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda1m53.520s3.029s5
8Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1m54.038s3.547s7
9Valtteri BottasMercedes1m54.664s4.173s4
10Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m55.104s4.613s8
11Nico HulkenbergRenault1m55.608s5.117s6
12Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Honda1m57.445s6.954s4
13Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari2m15.138s24.647s4
14Antonio GiovinazziSauber/Ferrari2m15.281s24.790s4
15Jolyon PalmerRenault--3
16Sebastian VettelFerrari--2
17Kimi RaikkonenFerrari--1
18Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes--2
19Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes--3
20Lewis HamiltonMercedes--2