MICHAEL Schumacher went quickest in the second practice session on a quiet opening day for track action in China. The German followed up a second fastest slot in the first session which was led by Lewis Hamilton. It was a day where racing on the Shanghai International Circuit was at a premium, as matters off the track dominated the headlines. This was because the FIA released a statement in the early hours of the morning to confirm the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled next week (see later story tonight for further details).
The first session was punctuated by mixed conditions, with smog and drizzle meaning there was a lack of clear indication in who looks the fastest pacesetters in China. Only in the last ten minutes did meaningful times get set; Hamilton leading the way ahead of Nico Rosberg, Schumacher and the star of Malaysia, Sergio Perez. Hamilton’s fastest lap was a full second quicker than anyone else but he does carry a grid penalty for changing a gearbox between Malaysia and this weekend. McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh confirmed to BBC Radio 5 Live this morning that Lewis was using the cracked gearbox today and the change will happen overnight. Test drivers Jules Bianchi, Valeri Bottas and Giedo Van der Garde got minor running in for their teams as Paul di Resta, Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen sat out FP1 respectively.
A dry second session promoted more decisive running. The cooler track conditions mean that it will be a gamble to guess how the Pirelli tyres will handle in what is likely to be a warmer race circuit come Sunday afternoon. There was more action in FP2, as drivers attempted to make up for the lack of running in FP1. di Resta spun on the pit straight and Timo Glock had a late off into the barriers at the first corner, minus his Marussia Cosworth’s nosecone. A late effort from Schumacher was enough to deny Hamilton a clean sweep of the fastest times. World champion Sebastian Vettel was an encouraging third and Mark Webber backed up a radical Red Bull improvement with fourth. Championship leader Fernando Alonso had a quiet day and was a meagre tenth fastest in FP2, as Ferrari were brought back to reality after their shock Sepang success. Lotus also had a bad day, Kimi Raikkonen propped up the timesheets in FP1 after technical problems intervened.
On a day when politics ruled the sport again, Mercedes and McLaren again looked fast out of the blocks but little has been given away ahead of qualifying tomorrow morning at 7am UK time.
CHINESE GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 1 TIMES
|1||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||7||1.37.106|
|2||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||14||1.38.116|
|3||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||14||1.38.316|
|4||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||13||1.38.584|
|5||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||12||1.38.911|
|6||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||15||1.38.977|
|7||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||12||1.39.198|
|8||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||6||1.39.199|
|9||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||16||1.39.748|
|10||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||14||1.39.768|
|13||VALTERI BOTTAS||WILLIAMS RENAULT||8||1.40.298|
|14||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||13||1.40.328|
|15||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||12||1.40.540|
|16||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||14||1.41.071|
|17||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||14||1.41.204|
|18||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||14||1.42.330|
|19||GIEDO VAN DER GARDE||CATERHAM RENAULT||11||1.42.521|
|20||JULES BIANCHI||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||8||1.44.118|
|21||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||10||1.44.227|
|22||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||15||1.44.500|
|23||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||12||1.47.264|
|24||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||11||1.50.465|
CHINESE GRAND PRIX FREE PRACTICE 2 TIMES
|1||MICHAEL SCHUMACHER||MERCEDES GP||32||1.35.973|
|2||LEWIS HAMILTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||29||1.36.145|
|3||SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||27||1.36.160|
|4||MARK WEBBER||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||24||1.36.433|
|5||NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES GP||31||1.36.617|
|6||JENSON BUTTON||MCLAREN MERCEDES||28||1.36.711|
|7||KAMUI KOBAYASHI||SAUBER FERRARI||28||1.36.956|
|8||PAUL DI RESTA||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||31||1.36.966|
|9||NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||31||1.37.191|
|11||SERGIO PEREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||22||1.37.417|
|12||DANIEL RICCIARDO||STR FERRARI||33||1.37.616|
|13||KIMI RAIKKONEN||LOTUS RENAULT||30||1.37.836|
|14||JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR FERRARI||32||1.37.930|
|15||ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||26||1.37.972|
|16||PASTOR MALDONADO||WILLIAMS RENAULT||35||1.38.176|
|18||BRUNO SENNA||WILLIAMS RENAULT||37||1.38.783|
|19||HEIKKI KOVALAINEN||CATERHAM RENAULT||36||1.38.990|
|20||VITALY PETROV||CATERHAM RENAULT||20||1.39.346|
|21||TIMO GLOCK||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||15||1.39.651|
|22||PEDRO DE LA ROSA||HRT COSWORTH||25||1.40.343|
|23||CHARLES PIC||MARUSSIA COSWORTH||30||1.40.753|
|24||NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN||HRT COSWORTH||26||1.41.125|
RADICAL MOVEMENT REQUIRED
VIRGIN Racing is no more and realistically, the team has faced a losing battle in its first two Grand Prix seasons. From the moment former technical director, Nick Wirth admitted in Australia 2010 that the team didn’t have a big enough fuel tank to finish races, any momentum that might have been built up vanished. Since then, it has been a real struggle for the team, as they haven’t troubled the points scorers, continued to fall away from Lotus (now Caterham) and almost be outpaced by the Hispania team on more than a sporadic basis.
Due to better race results from HRT, Virgin, managed by former Manor motorsport boss John Booth, has finished bottom of the constructors championship. This year, Marussia is the name they will be known as – the Russians involved in their second year of involvement having come onboard in 2011. Former Renault technical director Pat Symonds has been acting as a consultant, whilst serving a ban for his part in the 2009 race-fixing scandal. It will be interesting to see if his impact will have any movement in the team’s progress.
At times, former Toyota driver Timo Glock has produced absolute miracles and other occasions, frustration has led to the German not producing what is required of him. Considering he has finished in podium positions in the past, the project has been a failure in his career and frankly, a waste of his talent. Nevertheless, Timo has stayed on for a third successive year, which indicates he does has some faith in the operation. He has another new team-mate this year, as Frenchman Charles Pic moves into the no.2 seat. Pic finished fourth in last year’s GP2 series, winning a couple of races although the rest of his quantity is unknown. He replaces Jerome d’Ambrosio.
Many predict that Marussia will face another season of struggle. This year is make or break to see if they can make radical movements or be left trailing again at the back of the pack.