Chinese Grand Prix 2015: Near-miss of fan on track overshadows China GP

Hamilton led team-mate Nico Rosberg in first practice with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen beating the German in second practice

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The Independent Online

Amid all the excitement about whether Ferrari can once again take the fight to Mercedes in tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix here, Formula One received a brutal reality check yesterday that demands immediate action from the governing body, the FIA, to prevent a repetition.

In a scenario unpleasantly reminiscent of the situation in which the hugely promising Welsh driver Tom Pryce was killed during the 1977 South African GP when he struck a young marshal running on the track, a Chinese fan crossed the pit straight during the second practice session. He vaulted through a gap in the pit wall opposite the Ferrari garage after running between Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and the Force India car of Nico Hulkenberg, which were accelerating towards him at 150 mph. The fan then waved his ticket and said he wanted to try one of the cars.

He was apprehended by police and the FIA must now investigate how he managed to breach security by jumping down from the stands, climbing the 20-foot high debris fencing and accessing the track. The FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, instructed the organisers to double security precautions.

Lewis Hamilton dominated both sessions for Mercedes, but though it might have looked like a return to normal with a 1.124-second advantage over Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the first, the gap was down to 0.443sec in the second. Despite suggestions that Ferrari’s surprise pace in Malaysia two weeks ago owed much to their superior tyre wear in the freakish 64°C track temperature in Sepang, there were strong indications in yesterday’s second session that Ferrari can be in with a chance here, too.

On the medium-compound Pirelli tyres Hamilton was more than a second faster than Raikkonen, but on the soft-compound rubber the gap was down. Meanwhile, the winner in Malaysia, Sebastian Vettel, was fourth, just ahead of Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes.

Ferrari’s British technical director, James Allison, widely acknowledged to have been the guiding hand in their return to form, was cautious about overselling their revival. “I think that we’re up against a car, in Mercedes, and others too, that is strong competition. But Mercedes in particular, they have a bit more horsepower than us and a bit more downforce than us,” Allison said.

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Nico Rosberg finished second in practice one

“Our objectives were set out at the beginning of the year. We thought it was realistic to score a couple of wins and, of course, we’ll take whatever comes our way and we’ll do our best to make our car close up as much as we can during the year, but I think that sticking with the objectives we stated at the beginning of this year is still realistic.”

Vettel added: “Fight for pole with Mercedes tomorrow? They were very strong today, and the important thing for us is to make a step forward. There are a few things we can improve.”

Ricciardo.jpg
Daniel Ricciardo suffered reliability woes, while Felipe Massa spun off

For Hamilton, “today was definitely an improvement on Friday in Malaysia. It was good to get both sessions in and that puts me in a stronger position. The team have done an amazing job to find some improvements in the car. Balance-wise, it’s way better than the last race and it was generally feeling really good.

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Sebastian Vettel wasn't able to follow up his win in Malaysia

“It was quite close between us and Ferrari. They look just as fast as they were last time out, so we definitely have a race on. But I feel like I’ve got some improvements to make and I think we’ve got the pace to stay ahead.”

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Vettel is wheeled back into the Ferrari garage

Mercedes’ team director, Toto Wolff, was happy with his cars but added: “Ferrari are close – and closer on the long runs. We saw in Malaysia we need to get every detail right to create a winning weekend.”

Second Practice times:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1min 37.219secs,

2 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari1:37.662,

3 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull1:38.311,

4 Sebastian Vettel(Ger)Ferrari1:38.339,

5 Nico Rosberg(Ger)Mercedes1:38.399,

6 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Red Bull1:38.737,

7 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams1:38.850,

8 Felipe Nasr(Bra)Sauber 1:39.032,

9 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus1:39.142,

10 Jenson Button(Gbr)McLaren1:39.275,

11 Pastor Maldonado(Ven)Lotus1:39.444,

12 Fernando Alonso(Spa)McLaren1:39.743,

13 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Sauber1:39.751,

14 Max Verstappen(Ned)Toro Rosso1:39.894,

15 Carlos Sainz Jr(Spa)Toro Rosso1:39.971,

16 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India1:40.151,

17 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams1:40.423,

18 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India1:40.868,

19 Roberto Merhi(Spa)Manor 1:42.973,

20 Will Stevens(Gbr)Manor1:44.564

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