Pierre Gasly calls out ‘unacceptable’ issue after Chinese Grand Prix practice

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly was left seeing red after the first practice session at the Chinese Grand Prix.

For the first time in five years the paddock returned to China, but teams were only given one hour on the track.

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With only one practice session before qualifying for the first sprint race of the season, drivers were cutting it fine to get their head around the circuit.

The session was interrupted after only 15 minutes when a patch of grass near turn seven caught on fire.

“There is a fire in the grass,” Alpine driver Esteban Ocon said over team radio.

The Sky Sports commentators were left baffled by the blaze, unable to decipher what caused the fire.

“I don’t think I have ever, ever seen grass catch fire by the side of a Formula 1 track,” David Croft said.

“It’s a very small grass fire at the moment. I have no idea how that would have happened.”

Stewards sprinted onto the track and extinguished the flame, with the practice session resuming a few minutes later.

But it was frustration for fellow Alpine driver Gasly who blew up when the session came to an end.

As he entered the pits he vented to his pit crew: “This is not acceptable, I haven’t learned anything. Absolutely nothing,” Gasly said.

The issue over the limited on track time was raised before the F1 world landed in Shanghai with Max Verstappen blasting the call to make it the first sprint race on the calendar.

“Yeah, it’s very smart to do that,” Verstappen said.

“It’s not great to do that because when you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you’re going to experience, so it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there.

“On the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that’s maybe what they would like to see.

“But purely from a driving and performance perspective of the sport, I think it’s not the smartest thing to do. We’ll see what we get there.

“I always loved driving there, so hopefully we can hit the ground running as well as we can, and hopefully we don’t need to fine-tune too many things on the car.”

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll registered the fastest time in Friday’s practice session, closely followed by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second and third respectively.

“It’s been crazy over the last week and a half since I came back from Japan,” said Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu, who hails from Shanghai.

“I can’t wait. I know there’s going to be a mix of emotions going into this weekend.

“Especially on Sunday when the national anthem will be going and the memories of when I came here as a youth will come back.

“But the most important, critical thing is to do the right job and to score points.”

Zhou has been an F1 driver since 2022 but is yet to win a race and his Sauber team have not scored a world championship point this season.

But the Chinese pioneer is confident he can give the home fans something to cheer for in either the sprint race on Saturday or Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“Two opportunities this weekend and we have the potential,” he said.

“The race craft is OK and points are definitely there to be taken. But the midfield battle is super tight between all the cars.”

with AFP

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