Sebastian Vettel has continued his winning from from last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix into the opening practice session for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, by heading Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in a team 1-2 in the opening practice session today.
While having a Red Bull on the top of the practice timesheets is hardly a surprise given the current form shown by the RB7, it was the margin – over two seconds quicker – ahead of their nearest rivals that will certainly have a few front-running teams scratching their heads.
Heading the chasing pack were the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, who lapped closed to one another’s pace but well off Vettel, who was the only driver to lap under 1m39s in the session.
Conditions were overcast when running got underway in the morning, with a think blanket of fog and Shanghai’s customary filthy air shrouding the circuit in a curious mist. While air and track temperatures hit 26°C and 30 °C respectively, neither picked up much with the cloud cover not allowing the sun to warm conditions any further.
As Hamilton and Button set about evaluating new components for their MP4-26 challengers, they quickly moved to the top of the timesheets when running got underway. Later on, Button battled what appeared to be a KERS-related issue.
Vettel’s team-mate Webber again appeared to suffer yet more KERS-related problems in his RB7, and he’ll be hoping that the 0.6-second gap to Vettel can initially be explained as being a result of this problem.
Felipe Massa was quickest of the Ferraris in sixth place, finishing fractionally quicker than the two rookies, Sergio Pérez and Pastor Maldonado – the Venezuelan would also cause a late yellow flag when he spun into the gravel at Turn 7.
Eighth-fastest and quickest through the speed trap was Vitaly Petrov in the sister Renult R31. The Russian’s top speed of 319.2km/h (198.3mph) was 0.6km/h up on the second-fastest man, Heidfeld, and potentially indicating that the black and gold cars could again be a factor here this weekend.
Meanwhile, Sébastien Buemi finished the session in the top-ten, just pipping Nico Rosberg and his Mercedes GP to that final spot.
A strong session was also enjoyed by Heikki Kovalainen – the regular driver back in the cockpit instead of Davide Valsecchi, who the team had originally confirmed – who finished 14th-fastest for Team Lotus. Rookie driver Luiz Razia finished the session second-slowest with only nine laps to his name after damaging his front win, an incident that cause Jarno Trulli (the driver the Brazilian was replacing in this session) to gesticulate angrily in the team garage.
2011 Chinese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||1:38.739||23|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.615||27|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 2.106||21|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 2.201||22|
|5.||Nick Heidfeld||Renault R31||+ 2.248||5|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 2.307||25|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 2.450||20|
|8.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.483||20|
|9.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.492||16|
|10.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.589||21|
|11.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 2.622||23|
|12.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 2.695||15|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.755||20|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 2.840||13|
|15.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.871||18|
|16.||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 3.013||20|
|17.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 3.200||25|
|18.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 3.562||23|
|19.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 5.053||20|
|20.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 5.350||20|
|21.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 5.620||18|
|22.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 5.699||11|
|23.||Luiz Razia||Lotus Renault T128||+ 5.803||9|
|24.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.280||23|
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