Shanghai Practice 3: Hamilton fastest from Button

Lewis Hamilton at Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in free practice three in Shanghai

Apr.14 (PVM) With a new gearbox bolted to his McLaren MP4-27, Lewis Hamilton ended the final free practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend at the top of the timing screens and looking strong prospect for fastest lap in qualifying as top spot on the grid is out of the question thanks to a five-place grid penalty.

Lewis Hamilton in the Shanghai pit garage

Lewis Hamilton in the Shanghai pit garage

The penalty appears to have Hamilton fired up, and his fastest lap in the session was typical of the 2008 world champion: controlled aggression, pushing the limits everywhere on the quicker softer Pirelli tyres. Some lock-up moments means he probably has another quarter second in hand, if he nails a hot lap without any mistakes.

The 2008 world champion is the only driver to have won the Chinese GP twice and even if he does start around sixth place on the grid, a third victory at the venue is not out of the question and a charge from the third row by Hamilton is a mouth watering prospect for F1 fans.

Second quickest was teammate Jenson Button, suggesting that the MP4-27 is pretty handy around the twists of Shanghai. Button is likely to be content with the improvement, as he appeared to struggle on the first day. With his teammate penalised before qualifying even starts, the top spot grid slot will be his to lose.

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

Nico Rosberg third quickest

Next up were the Mercedes AMG pair with Nico Rosberg third quickest from Michael Schumacher fourth on the timing sheets – four Merc powered cars in the top four positions, although the Woking variety appear to have a quarter second edge heading into qualifying.

Fastest of the Red Bull pair was Mark Webber with the fifth fastest time, with team mate Sebastian Vettel ninth best.

Pastor Maldonado again showed that the Williams FW34 is capable of sniffing among the front runners. He was sixth fastest.

Also enjoying strong form again this weekend are the Sauber duo with Sergio Perez seventh quickest, ahead of team mate Kamui Kobaysahi – the pair 0.099 seconds apart on the timing screens. Again the Faenza based minnows, with their Ferrari power plants, outpacing the Maranello giants.

Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus finally broke into the top ten, with the Finn rounding out the top ten, with teammate Romain Grosjean 12th fastest.

Pit stop for Fernando Alonso

Pit stop for Fernando Alonso

Hard to believe that Ferrari actually won the last race , three weeks ago in Malaysia, as the pair language way down the order. Fernando Alonso ending the session down in 15th, 1.5 seconds down on Hamilton’s best and Massa 18th and almost two seconds off the best time, the Brazilian slower than the Ferrari powered Toro Rosso pair.

So  after three sessions in China it would foolish to bet against a McLaren on pole, Hamilton for sure not but Button highly likely with Hamilton set to start from the third row.

The real focus will be on who can challenge the Woking squad with Mercedes looking strong and of course the likes of Vettel and Webber capable of digging deep and snatching a surprise. There is a sneaky suspicion in the Shanghai paddock that the Red Bull pair have some firepower to spare, yet to  be unleashed. Whatever the outcome qualifying is set to be an intriguing duel. watch this space!

Free Practice 3 – Shanghai, 14 April 2012

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.940 13
2 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.063 0.123 12
3 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.389 0.449 16
4 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:36.512 0.572 17
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.635 0.695 16
6 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:36.765 0.825 17
7 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.781 0.841 19
8 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.880 0.940 17
9 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.039 1.099 15
10 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:37.061 1.121 17
11 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:37.237 1.297 16
12 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.274 1.334 19
13 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:37.288 1.348 16
14 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:37.425 1.485 14
15 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.465 1.525 12
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:37.493 1.553 13
17 16 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:37.628 1.688 14
18 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.831 1.891 14
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1:38.701 2.761 19
20 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:39.198 3.258 19
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.796 3.856 18
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.048 4.108 17
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:41.263 5.323
24 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:41.499 5.559