The first day of practice isn’t meant to be like this. It’s meant to be a gentle introduction to the circuit, getting the cars set up properly for Saturday’s onslaught. It is the time to make sure that everything is working properly and to make a bit of fine tuning of the set-up.
For Sebastien Buemi, however, the day was far from normal. At 180 miles per hour on the main straight at Shanghai, the young Swiss driver had his front suspension fail explosively and went on a wild sleigh ride into the gravel trap.
Toro Rosso were trialing a new suspension component in Shanghai—turns out that it may not have been a resounding success. When Buemi hit the brakes, the stress on the suspension resulted in the spectacular front suspension failure.
In a scene unique to F1, the car shed both of its front wheels without contact with another car, wall, or even something as substantial as a particularly dark shadow.
To Buemi’s credit, the youngster didn’t stop trying to steer his car down the road, seemingly not understanding that the front wheels are a necessary component in the whole steering process. At the time, the front wheels were about 100 yards away.
Fortunately, the Toro Rosso wreck only kissed the barriers lightly before coming to rest in the gravel trap. Buemi was shaken, as they say, but not stirred—or hurt. Mechanics put the crash down to a front suspension failure—no sh*t, that explains everything.
In reality, it was a failure of the right front upright. Immediately after this first failure, the opposite side component went out in sympathy, not able to cope with the transferred load.
Elsewhere in practice, Lewis Hamilton heads the times after the first two practice sessions followed by Nico Rosberg, Jensen Button, and Michael Schumacher. These top-four drivers were separated by less than half a second. The Red Bull Racing combination of Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber were fifth and sixth fastest consecutively.
All is set for a very exciting weekend and with rain forecast for Sunday, all of today’s and tomorrow’s efforts will amount to nothing. What fun!