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Frustration as practice aborted due to smog in Shanghai

China’s notoriously murky air prevented a full running of the Chinese Grand Prix’s practice sessions Friday in a frustrating day for drivers and fans in Shanghai.

Frustration as practice aborted due to smog in Shanghai
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Max Verstappen was the fastest during a smog-hit free practice ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix

Smog and damp weather combined to cut short morning practice and forced the cancellation of the afternoon running without title hopefuls Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel ever laying rubber. The problem wasn’t even at the track — Formula One said the race’s medical helicopter would have been barred from landing at designated hospitals due to Chinese rules on flight visibility. 

A local airport in the area even had to be closed, the FIA noted. Air quality in Shanghai was in the “unhealthy” range, according to readings put out by the city’s American Consulate. There was no immediate announcement on whether the situation could affect the race schedule, although further poor weather was expected this weekend. 

More than half the drivers got a crack at the boggy circuit during a curtailed morning running, with Max Verstappen of Red Bull getting around the quickest. Hamilton and defending champions Mercedes have vowed to bounce back after their wake-up call in the season opener in Melbourne two weeks ago, where Vettel steered his Ferrari to a commanding victory. 

Forlorn drivers sat in the pits or in their cars Friday as they waited to see whether the afternoon’s practice would ever get under way before time eventually ran out. Drivers will have a final chance at practice on Saturday before afternoon qualifying — if the air clears up.

After 2017, F1 bids goodbye to Malaysia

Malaysia will stage its final Formula One Grand Prix in October after the government and the sport’s commercial rights holders announced on Friday that their hosting agreement would end a year early.

Malaysia has hosted a round of the world championships at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) since 1999 but the government said last November that the deal would not be renewed when it ran out at the end of 2018. On Friday, however, both parties announced that the Oct. 1 race this year would be the last. 

“It’s always sad to say goodbye to a member of the Formula 1 family,” Sean Bratches, Formula 1 commercial operations managing director, said in a statement. 

“Over nearly two decades, the Malaysian Formula 1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport’s most passionate supporters.” Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said that declining ticket sales, viewership and tourism were behind the decision to pull out of hosting the race. 

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