Chinese GP struck by fires as Shanghai Circuit burns on Friday

Grass fires have plagued free practice and qualifying for the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Sprint Race

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Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying was thrust into chaos on Friday morning when fires hit the Shanghai International Circuit as dry grass began to burn at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix in the hot temperatures in the Asian nation.

Grass initially caught flames in Free Practice 1 earlier in the day, causing a red flag to interrupt proceedings before the fires of fury struck once again as the drivers battled it out to take sprint pole, ensuring some drivers could not set a final lap when yellow flags were thrown for the hazard.

Fortunately, Asia is known for swift weather changes and a downpour was not too far away, allowing the fires to be extinguished and the grass to get some much needed moisture to hopefully remain damp enough to avoid being fried throughout the remainder of the weekend.

But with two incidents taking place now, it’s unclear how the drivers, teams and sport will react if the issue reoccurs once again throughout the rest of the weekend since it’s now a known, repeat, problem.

Red Bull lost as the rain falls in Sprint Qualifying

The rain might have been the saviour for the green grass around the outside of the circuit but one team it did little to help was Red Bull as they failed to appear in any of the top three spots, which were occupied by Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

To be fair though, it wasn’t a complete disaster for Max Verstappen and his world champion crew as they lined up fourth, with Sergio Perez not too far behind in sixth for the Saturday, April 20 shortened race.

Norris’ lap was pretty insane all things considered as his time of a 1:57.940 was 1.261 seconds faster than Hamilton, 1.975 seconds faster than Alonso and 2.088 seconds faster than Verstappen. Between them, those three drivers have 12 world championships between them and they’ve won all but seven of them since 2005.

Zhou Guanyu, the home hero, also enjoyed a strong performance as he beat Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and George Russell’s Mercedes to make the final part of qualifying around the circuit just outside of the city he grew up in.

Elsewhere, Carlos Sainz had the beating of Charles Leclerc once again and Oscar Piastri qualified eighth in the second McLaren car. Valtteri Bottas managed to finish ninth and Daniel Ricciardo finally outqualified Yuki Tsunoda for the first time in 2024.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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