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Hamilton and Schumacher make the best of Friday running in Shanghai

April 14, 2012

TV Notes

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes veteran Michael Schumacher made the best of tricky conditions to top the opening practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Although Hamilton ran quickest in the morning, it was the wily Schumacher who stole the day’s fastest lap of the Shanghai International Circuit.

Schumacher ended FP1 in 3rd spot after completing only 14 laps, but stretched his legs somewhat during a qualifying stint in the afternoon session.
It has not been unusual to see the Mercedes squad excel in low fuel runs; however long distance stints have seen pace fall away from the German manufacturer.
During the dual ninety-minute sessions, Mercedes team focussed on a deeply technical programme, applying numerous set-up changes to the F1 W03. Much of the schedule was dedicated to race simulations and tyre comparisons.

Schumacher’s Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, briefly topped the opening session in the dying moments, while he swapped quickest laps with Hamilton. Rosberg would end the sessions 2nd (FP1) and 5th (FP2).

Hamilton headed an opening session dominated by changeable conditions, as the Woking squad brought a new rear wing package and an updated floor to Shanghai.
The cool conditions nullified any potential for optimum tyre comparisons; however Hamilton still registered some relatively competitive times. The 2008 World Champion was unable to assume the top spot in FP2, finishing instead 2nd, just under two-tenths slower than Schumacher.

It was a more difficult day for Jenson Button, who struggled to “switch his tyres on” in the low temperatures, leaving the king of Melbourne stranded down in 8th (FP1) and 6th (FP2).
Alterations to the front wheel cambers and brake discs appeared not to cure Button’s understeer problems – something that appeared to quietly frustrate the former champion.

There were split strategies in the Red Bull camp, as Mark Webber continued with the latest version exhaust and Sebastien Vettel contended with a variation of the exhaust from the Barcelona test.
The afternoon saw Red Bull change Vettel’s front suspension units, while Webber endured temporary KERS issues.

At Ferrari, both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa tested new aerodynamic components in FP1, before moving to tyre evaluations in the afternoon.
While Ferrari’s disappointing lack of performance and balance has been noted on numerous occasions, Massa’s tyre struggles would continue through the opening day, as his soft compound Pirelli’s fell away early in each of his stints.

Lotus also brought developments to Shanghai (new barge boards, diffuser, floor and front wing), although their day was destabilised by severe understeer due to the cool temperatures, while Raikkonen suffered with malfunctioning DRS.
A spin for Grosjean in the second session interrupted what had been a rather busy day for the Frenchman. He would register 39 laps over the two sessions, ending 17th (FP1) and 15th (FP2) respectively.

Force India concentrated on tyre evaluations and long runs in the afternoon, although their morning was cut short by the circuit conditions. Indeed Jules Bianchi – replacing Paul di Resta during FP1 – managed only eight laps, severely limiting the Frenchman’s learning potential.
The team brought some small aerodynamic updates to Shanghai that received full evaluation in the afternoon.

Set-up work was the order of the day at Sauber, as the Swiss squad push for better overall balance on the circuit’s slippery surface. While Kamui Kobayashi enjoyed a trouble-free day, Sergio Perez suffered from braking problems and locking front wheels – the latter of wheel caused the entire front section of his C31 to rattle violently down the back straight.

Daniel Ricciardo reported that he was happier with his Toro Rosso than he was in Malaysia three weeks ago, despite an on going power steering problem. The Australian split the set-up programme with teammate Jean-Eric Vergne throughout the afternoon, who claimed to be “…not entirely happy with the feeling (…) from the car.”

Evaluations of the aerodynamic and mechanical workings of the FW34 were the order of the day at Williams, with long runs and tyre comparisons mixed into the programme for good measure.
It was especially productive for reserve driver Valtteri Bottas, who completed his first Formula 1 session in damp condition, when he took over Bruno Senna’s car in the morning.
For Senna, it proved to be another minor frustration, on a track that he admitted to be largely unfamiliar with. Indeed, this was the second of fifteen practice sessions that Senna must give to Bottas throughout 2012, potentially destabilising his progress further.

Caterham brought a new floor for the Chinese Grand Prix; however the lack of optimum conditions somewhat hindered knowledge gained from the new component.
As with many other teams, the green-and-yellow squad ran tyre comparison programmes, as they strive to learn more about the new Pirelli’s. Caterham also brought in a reserve driver for FP1, as Giedo van der Garde sat in for Vitaly Petrov in what was his first competition session in Formula 1.

It was a day of some disappointment for Marussia. Following a bout of solid running, lead driver Timo Glock hit the barrier at the end of turn one sideways, when his nosebox mysteriously dislodged itself on the approach to the corner.
Thankfully, Glock appeared to be unhurt, despite banging his hand hard in the cockpit and while there was no overly serious damage to the MR01, his session was clearly over early.
Beyond that, the day was a positive one for the Marussia team, who brought some promising front wing and floor updates, as well as new brake drums to Shanghai.

HRT enjoyed a significant improvement, thanks to an updated front wing that the Spanish team surmised gave them a bonus of up to seven-tenths; however drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan still found deficiencies with the braking of the F112 machine.
This session was easily HRT’s most co-ordinated of the season yet, with the team moving swiftly into race set-up programmes with the rest of the field come the latter third of FP2.

The opening session created a number of issues. Having rained overnight, the circuit was not wet enough for full wet tyres, yet still too damp to make the move for dries. Some eventually took to the track on the Pirelli intermediates, although this did not bring a huge increase in running.
Practice was also dominated by thick smog that lingered amongst the tops of the Shanghai grandstands and rooftops.
The circuit itself was also heavily littered, albeit with discarded Pirelli rubber, as cars shed layers of tyre in the cooler temperatures, creating a definite single racing line before the end of day.

2012 Chinese Grand Prix (Round 3, Free Practice 1)
Pos  Driver                Team                  Time               Laps 
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m37.106              7 
 2.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m38.116s  + 1.010   14 
 3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m38.316s  + 1.210   14 
 4.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m38.584s  + 1.478   13 
 5.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m38.911s  + 1.805   12 
 6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m38.977s  + 1.871   15 
 7.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m39.198s  + 2.092   12 
 8.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m39.199s  + 2.093    6 
 9.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m39.748s  + 2.642   16 
10.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m39.768s  + 2.662   14 
11.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m40.056s  + 2.950   14 
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m40.153s  + 3.047   14 
13.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1m40.298s  + 3.192    8 
14.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m40.328s  + 3.222   13 
15.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m40.540s  + 3.434   12 
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m41.071s  + 3.965   14 
17.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m41.204s  + 4.098   14 
18.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1m42.330s  + 5.224   14 
19.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault      1m42.521s  + 5.415   11
20.  Jules Bianchi         Force India-Mercedes  1m44.118s  + 7.012    8 
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1m44.227s  + 7.121   10 
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1m44.500s  + 7.394   15 
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m47.204s  + 10.098  12 
24.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m50.465s  + 13.359  11
^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.
2012 Chinese Grand Prix (Round 3, Free Practice 2)
Pos  Driver                Team                   Time               Laps 
 1.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1m35.973             32 
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1m36.145s  + 0.172   29 
 3.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1m36.160s  + 0.187   26 
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1m36.433s  + 0.460   23 
 5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1m36.617s  + 0.644   30 
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1m36.711s  + 0.738   27 
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1m36.956s  + 0.983   28 
 8.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1m36.966s  + 0.993   30 
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1m37.191s  + 1.218   30 
10.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1m37.316s  + 1.343   32 
11.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1m37.417s  + 1.444   22 
12.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m37.616s  + 1.643   33 
13.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1m37.836s  + 1.863   30 
14.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m37.930s  + 1.957   31 
15.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1m37.972s  + 1.999   25 
16.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       1m38.176s  + 2.203   34 
17.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1m38.293s  + 2.320   30 
18.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       1m38.783s  + 2.810   37 
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1m38.990s  + 3.017   36 
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1m39.346s  + 3.373   19 
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1m39.651s  + 3.678   15 
22.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           1m40.343s  + 4.370   24 
23.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1m40.753s  + 4.780   30 
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1m41.125s  + 5.162   26
^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.
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