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Other SportsChinese Grand Prix 2024: Stroll leads first practice ahead of sprint qualifying

Chinese Grand Prix 2024: Stroll leads first practice ahead of sprint qualifying

Lance Stroll was the unexpected pacesetter in the first practice session at the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of sprint qualifying taking place on Friday.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen was top of the pile for much of the opening session at the Shanghai International Circuit, with the Chinese event returning after a five-year absence caused by COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the Red Bull driver was overhauled by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who in turn couldn’t keep up with Aston Martin’s Stroll, the Canadian finishing 0.327 seconds clear of Piastri.

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Verstappen was third with his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez following him in fourth, with the timesheets giving little away ahead of the fifth race of the season.

Mercedes duo George Russell and Lewis Hamilton came in 17th and 18th, respectively, with the latter complaining that the W15 car was “really bad” over team radio while running on hard tyres.

Just 15 minutes into the session, racing was halted after a small patch of grass caught on fire near turn seven, the cars returning to the pit lane under a red flag to allow marshals to extinguish the flames.

The bizarre incident took mere minutes to be resolved, with organisers believing a spark generated by the underside of a car striking the ground may have caused the fire in dry conditions.

Following changes to the scheduling of sprint race weekends for 2024, the teams will now compete in sprint qualifying on Friday, with the 19-lap sprint race taking place early on Saturday.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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