Lewis Hamilton issues warning with strong Chinese Grand Prix practice showing

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

Hamilton made a couple of small errors on his fastest lap but the times suggest another close battle between Mercedes and Ferrari for the race win.

Hamilton has dominated in a decade of racing in China.

"The balance of the vehicle is good but we have some fine-tuning to do on it tonight".

Asked whether he felt the need to have a conversation with Hamilton, Verstappen replied: "I might have a talk with him if it's really necessary".

"This is not the start to the 2018 season we had hoped for", said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff this week.

Get set for Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to tangle again in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Despite the gap to Mercedes, Red Bull will be pleased with their impressive pace on the medium tyre in the first phase of the session where they were comfortably the quickest on this weekend's most durable compound.

He has not put a foot wrong so far this season but the unlucky timing of a Virtual Safety Car in Australia and a five-place grid penalty in Bahrain due to a gearbox change means he is 17 points behind Sebastian Vettel.

But the four-time champion - and defending champion with Mercedes - was not happy.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel
GETTYLewis Hamilton expects Sebastian Vettel to dominate tomorrow's race

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will start first and second respectively with both Mercedes drivers behind them.

Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo both retired early last weekend in Bahrain, and they both had off-the-podium finishes in Australia: Ricciardo was fourth and Verstappen was sixth.

Nico Hulkenberg was best-of-the rest for Renault. And while the Dutchman did clock his best time of the session a lap later, the tyres would have been slightly damaged.

"The balance of the vehicle is good but we have some fine-tuning to do on it tonight".

The Frenchman capitalised on the Red Bull meltdown, of course, but he was in such a position after a blistering Q3 that saw him qualify in - ahead of all of his team's second-tier rivals in Haas, Renault and Force India.

There was little drama in the session, which was hit by rain in the closing stages.

McLaren could be facing a fine from governing body the FIA after Stoffel Vandoorne, 14th fastest, had to stop on the track with a loose wheel.

Leclerc survived a spin after losing the rear on the power exiting the final left-hander on his second run to relegate team-mate Marcus Ericsson to last on their final runs thanks to the Swede's poor final sector pace.

The Canadian, having gone slowest in the opening session, continued to prop up the timesheets in the afternoon.

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