Shanghai Practice 1: Hamilton shows his intent

Lewis Hamilton started the Chinese GP weekend at the top of the timing screens

Lewis Hamilton started the Chinese GP weekend at the top of the timing screens

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.

Lewis Hamilton at Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton gets ready for action

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.

Formula One World Championship / RD03 / China GP / Shanghai / Shanghai International Circuit / 13.04 - 15.04.2012

Malaysia GP winner Fernando Alonso was 11th fastest

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.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo

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

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.106 7
2 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.116 1.010 14
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:38.316 1.210 14
4 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.584 1.478 13
5 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.911 1.805 12
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
8 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.199 2.093 6
9 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:39.748 2.642 16
10 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:39.768 2.662 14
11 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:40.056 2.950 14
12 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:40.153 3.047 14
13 19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:40.298 3.192 8
14 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:40.328 3.222 13
15 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:40.540 3.434 12
16 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:41.071 3.965 14
17 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:41.204 4.098 14
18 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:42.330 5.224 14
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
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:44.500 7.394 15
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:47.204 10.098 12
24 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:50.465 13.359 11