Alexander Albon crashed heavily at the final corner to bring the final free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix to an early end.
The Toro Rosso driver ran slightly wide out of the final corner, causing the car to lose traction on the astroturf beyond the exit curb. After trying to catch it once and overcorrecting, Albon reacted again just as the car gripped up where the astroturf ended, pitching him sideways towards the outside of the track.
Albon then slid sideways through a small gravel trap before hitting the wall heavily with the left-hand side of his car.
The rookie confirmed he was unhurt over team radio and apologized to his Toro Rosso team. The incident brought out the red flag with seven minutes remaining, and did not restart. Toro Rosso has just two hours to try and fix Albon’s car before qualifying.
The crash and premature end to the session scuppered a number of late flying laps in qualifying trim, but the top six cars had all managed to post times before the stoppage. Valtteri Bottas set the pace with a 1m32.830s, leaving Sebastian Vettel nearly 0.4s further back in second after running wide at the final corner when set to improve.
Charles Leclerc was only 0.026s slower than his teammate in the second Ferrari, but Lewis Hamilton had to abort his first attempt at a flying lap after running wide exiting Turn 6. The defending champion then had another go at a low fuel lap on the same set of tires, but the best life had been taken out of them and he ended up with a 1m33.689s in fourth place.
Nico Hulkenberg was fifth for Renault – 0.285s slower than Hamilton – ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in sixth. Raikkonen was involved in a strange incident earlier in the session when he complained that his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi almost hit him, claiming the Italian got close to him on purpose at the start of the lap.
Max Verstappen was one of the drivers not to get a low fuel lap in due to the red flag, completing just five laps and ending up seventh but 1.6s off the pace, while Carlos Sainz, Albon and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10.
The final corner was proving tricky for a number of drivers, with Lando Norris – who ended the session in 11th – asking if the wind direction had changed after he suffered a big moment at the final corner on his second flying lap on soft tires. The McLaren rookie had to react quickly to stop his car from spinning on turn-in, running very wide as a result.
The Haas pair of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen ended up 17th and 18th respectively ahead of the two Williams cars, with the team still appearing to focus on race pace as it works to avoid a repeat of its struggles in Bahrain.