Free Practice 1
The first practice session for this weekend’s Chinese GP at the Shanghai International circuit started with damp conditions. Heikki Kovalainen was the first man out on track followed by Giedo van der Garde, the team’s reserve driver, and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. Van der Garde was not the only test driver out on track as Valtteri Bottas and Jules Bianchi were also out for Williams and Force India respectively. Bruno Senna and Paul di Resta sat out the morning session before returning in the afternoon. A number of teams have brought updates for this weekend including Red Bull who are running different exhaust layouts on their cars, McLaren had modified front and rear wings and a new floor, while Ferrari have brought five new updates which they hope will move them a step closer to the leading teams. HRT have made “small” adjustments to their cars, Caterham have a new engine cover and floor, while the Lotus team hope their new parts will give the team up to two tenths of a second. Mercedes once again faced protest from Lotus about the legality of their ‘f duct’ type device, however it was again deemed to be legal by the FIA.
Drivers spent the first half of the session completing system checks and installation laps and just after light rain started to fall it was Mark Webber who set the first fastest lap time of a 1:40.647 and after that times started to fall as more drivers ventured out. Felipe Massa appeared to struggle to get heat into his tyres as he locked up, while team-mate Fernando Alonso waited until the closing stages of the session before setting a lap time as the track conditions improved. Both McLaren drivers did the same. Kimi Räikkönen had DRS problems throughout and the team chose to cut short his session and he finished at the bottom of the times. As the track continued to dry the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher went fastest before losing out to both his team-mate and Lewis Hamilton, who went over a second faster. Hamilton will face a five place grid drop after the team change his gearbox which has developed a fault.
Free Practice 2
The second practice session started in drier conditions albeit still cold. Heikki Kovalainen was once again first out on track followed by Narain Karthikeyan and Bruno Senna, who took over from test driver Valtteri Bottas. As the first practice session had taken place in difficult conditions, drivers wasted no time in getting out on track to set lap times. Sergio Perez, who claimed a surprise podium in Malaysia, was the first man to set a time with a 1:38.785. A number of drivers, including Felipe Massa, Perez and Lewis Hamilton, struggled with braking as they locked up heavily and flat-spotted their tyres. Massa was also receiving tips from his race engineer, Rob Smedley, as he was advised that Fernando Alonso was not braking at Turn 3. Paul di Resta spun on the pit straight with other drivers such as Kovalainen going wide at the same place. Timo Glock’s session came to a premature end as his nose fell off and he had a heavy side on impact with the barriers. He initially complained of hand pain but is thankfully alright. It was an incident similar to Sebastian Buemi’s in 2010 when the Swiss driver’s front suspension broke and both wheels came completely free.
Daniel Ricciardo complained to his engineers that his steering was heavy, to which they replied that it would take about three months to fix, but he still ended the session in twelfth. Kamui Kobayashi had a slide in his Sauber, which would not have done his tyres any favours while Kimi Räikkönen got onto the wet astro turf but was able to control his car and stay on track. After he returned to the pits he spent a lengthy period of time sat in his car awaiting further instruction from the team. The Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber lapped at the front until Hamilton got himself in between the pair after going fastest in the first two sectors but losing out in the third sector. In the latter stages of the session drivers focused on long runs as they fuelled up the cars. In the end it was Michael Schumacher who topped the times, ahead of morning pacesetter Lewis Hamilton.