Shanghai Practice 1: Hamilton shows his intent
13 April, 2012
Apr.13 (PVM) No doubt stung by the knowledge that he will not be starting Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix from pole position, Lewis Hamilton nevertheless showed his intent by topping the timing screens in the opening free practice session of the Shanghai weekend.
Hamilton, a two time winner in China, lit up a gloomy morning by scorching around the Shanghai International Circuit in 1 minute 37.106 seconds which was over a second faster than his closest rival. Again, as in Australia and Malaysia, the McLaren MP4-27 proved to be a fast car and pretty much plug-and-play wherever it is unleashed.
The fact that Hamilton can only hope to start from sixth on the grid, thanks to the fact that a faulty gearbox needed changing and with that comes a five-place grid penalty, has inspired the 2008 world champion to send an early message to the paddock. He said of the penalty: “It doesn’t alter my approach. I still have to qualify as high as possible.” Game on!
Green light for the 90 minutes session was given under misty skies over Shanghai, with the track littered with wet patches. The tricky conditions prevented any early meaningful runs, and in fact most chose to sit it out until the track dried up well into the session. The fast laps were set in the final minutes of the ninety as a solid dry racing line emerged.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh did point out that Hamilton was still running the faulty gearbox in the first practice, but conceded to BBC that they were 99% certain that it would be replaced before the race.
On the timing screens below Hamilton’s best, were the Mercedes AMG pair with Nico Rosberg faster than team mate Michael Schumacher. The Silver Arrows team bolstered by the fact that the FIA has deemed their innovative ‘double DRS’ wing to be legal after Lotus lodged an official protest a day earlier.
Again showing considerable pace were the Sauber duo with Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, fastest of the Ferrari powered brigade, fourth and fifth quickest.
The Red Bull pair were next up with Mark Webber 0.001 seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel, the energy drinks boys sixth and seventh respectively. During his fastest lap Vettel radioed his team that the DRS on his RB8 was not working.
Two seconds down on his pace setting teammate was Jenson Button, ending the session eighth fastest.
Ninth and tenth were the Toro Rosso youngsters, Daniel Ricciardo and rookie Jean Eric Vergne. The Ferrari powered team from Faenza keeping the both Ferrari drivers (of Maranello origin) out of the top ten. Fernando Alonso was 11th and Felipe Massa 12th
Notably both Lotus drivers were out of the top ten, with Romain Grosjean 17th on the timing sheets and Kimi Raikkonen, 24th, slowest of all in the E20. Apparently no issues with either car, simply calling it quits, as the team explained: “With 10 minutes left to run both cars returned to the garage and parked up for the morning; the team having decided that there was little more to be gained from running on a frustratingly variable surface.”
Reserve drivers in action were: Valterri Bottas in place of Bruno Senna for Williams (13th), Giedo van der Garde in Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham cockpit (19th) and Jules Bianchi taking Paul Di Resta’s place in the Force India (20th).
Free Practice 1 – Shanghai, 13 April 2012
|6||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:38.977||1.871||15|
|7||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.198||2.092||12|
|14||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:40.328||3.222||13|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:42.521||5.415||11|
|20||11||Jules Bianchi||Force India-Mercedes||1:44.118||7.012||8|
|21||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:44.227||7.121||10|
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- Ferrari: We will try and exploit any opportunity to attack
- McLaren: To put it in simple terms we performed poorly
- Force India: We can be strong in race conditions
- Red Bull: Our straight line speed wasn’t able to challenge that of the Mercedes
- Williams: We still have some work to do with the car in terms of performance
- Mercedes: We had the pace to put both cars on the front row