SHANGHAI – Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel led Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.
Off the track, Formula One prepared to celebrate its 1,000th race on Sunday. The first F1 race took place in 1950 at Silverstone, a converted World War II airfield in southern England. It was won by Giuseppe Farina driving an Alfa Romeo.
Vettel was quickest in the morning session, and Bottas was slightly faster in the afternoon with Vettel right behind. The afternoon session was quicker overall with Bottas clocking 1 minute, 33.330 seconds on the track located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from downtown Shanghai.
Vettel was timed in 1:33.357 in the afternoon, followed by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen (1:33.551) and Lewis Hamilton (1:34.037) in his Mercedes.
Bottas and Hamilton have each won one of the first two races this season. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull dominate and are expected to do the same in qualifying on Saturday and in Sunday’s race.
Shanghai is far from Formula One’s most tradition-steeped venues. That honor would go Monaco, Monza, Spa or Silverstone. But the Chinese circuit will do the honors on Sunday.
“We’ve said many time that one of the greatest parts of Formula One is its rich history,” Formula One CEO Chase Carey said. “And nothing accentuates that rich history more than celebrating our 1,000th race.”
Liberty Media took over Formula One two years ago for $4.6 billion, taking control of a sport long run by British billionaire Bernie Ecclestone. Liberty is in the middle of negotiating a new, difficult contract with its 10 teams that would go into effect with the 2021 season.
It would include redistributing prize money, which now favors big teams like Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
Carey tipped his hat to China, which is a likely target for as second race as Formula One looks to expand in Asia. It is scheduled to add a new race next year in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“It’s great to be able to celebrate here in Shanghai because Shanghai is in many ways one of the most exciting parts of the future,” Carey said. “An incredible opportunity to marry our rich history with our exciting future.”
Damon Hill, the 1996 F1 champion, drove into the circuit on Friday in a 1968 Lotus, which his father Graham Hill drove in winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 1968. The elder Hill won the season title twice – in 1962 and 1968.
“I calculate that we have won 3.7% of the 1,000 races,” Damon Hill said. “The Hill family. There’s a history, there’s a tradition and it’s just great.”
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