NEWS

Practice One - Hamilton tops damp session in Shanghai

13 Apr 2012

For a long time Red Bull’s Mark Webber was the only man who went really quickly in the opening practice session in China on Friday. Affected by drizzle and a damp track, nobody could get much meaningful running.

Jenson Button was actually in the McLaren hospitality unit, waiting for conditions to improve, when Webber lapped his Red Bull in an impressive 1m 39.558s, but as that track improvement finally came in the closing stages a flurry of times saw Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and then, finally, Hamilton, go to the top of the timesheets.

In the end, Hamilton was dominant in his McLaren, slicing down to 1m 37.106s immediately after Rosberg’s Mercedes had momentarily displaced him with 1m 38.116s.

Behind them, Schumacher managed 1m 38.316s, then came the on-form Saubers of Malaysian Grand Prix sensation Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 38.584s and 1m 38.911s respectively. Webber completed the top six with 1m 38.977s.

The Australian was using the standard Red Bull exhaust set-up, while team mate Sebastian Vettel was running an older set-up in the pursuit of better balance. To complicate the issue for the team, the defending world champion was seventh on 1m 39.198s, close behind his team partner.

A late run for Button saw him lap a thousandth slower in the second McLaren, chased by Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso on 1m 39.748s, and the Australian’s team mate Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 39.768s. The Ferraris were well matched too, with Fernando Alonso on 1m 40.056s and Felipe Massa on 1m 40.153s. Perez and Massa were among those who had minor off-course moments, as did HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa.

Once again Valtteri Bottas impressed mightily for Williams, lapping 13th fastest in 1m 40.298s, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the leading Force India on 1m 40.328s and Pastor Maldonado in the other Williams on 1m 40.540s.

Heikki Kovalainen was 16th for Caterham on 1m 41.071s, with Romain Grosjean 17th for Lotus on 1m 41.204s, followed by Timo Glock’s Marussia on 1m 42.330s. Giedo van der Garde, having his first run for Caterham, lapped in 1m 42.521s ahead of Jules Bianchi, who was likewise having his first at-race run for Force India. He posted 1m 44.118s, while de la Rosa did 1m 44.227s for HRT and Charles Pic 1m 44.500s for Marussia.

At the back, Narain Karthikeyan took his HRT round in 1m 47.204s, while a DRS problem on his Lotus restricted Kimi Raikkonen to 1m 50.465s. The mixed conditions are unlikely to change on Friday afternoon.

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