Brought to you by TheJudge13 reporter Adam Macdonald
A jeckel and hyde circuit for Lewis Hamilton having effectively lost the world Championship there back in 2007, and taking a giant stride towards winning it in 2008. Both were dominant displays, with the former ending in the rain due to what for most parts was a rookie error. Now 29 years old, his teammate and only realistic title rival cannot expect him to make mistakes of a similar vein.
Mercedes have introduced a new front nose for the weekend to help with the long corners at turn 1 and 11, where the Red Bulls are expected to be quick. Having failed the crash test a rumoured 4 times, they will be glad to finally have it on their challenger – as if more than a 1.5 second a lap advantage wasn’t enough. The longest straight on the calendar will play into the hands of the Mercedes powertrain, as the shorter gear ratios could cause problems for Ferrari and Red Bull.
Kevin Magnussen was the first to venture out onto the track quickly followed by the Mercedes boys and others. Kimi Raikkonen was left stuck in the garage as his mechanics scurried around trying to fix his front suspension. The Finn departed out to the back of the garage as Giedo van der Garde readied himself for another practice session in his Sauber.
Another week, another mistake for Pastor Maldonado as he misplaced his concentration (on his steering wheel instead) before a corner sending himself into a spin. There was a lack of grip out on the circuit, but this off could not be blamed on that. It seems when it rains it pours for Pastor as the dark clouds still hover above him!
Massa was the first driver to set a lap time, a 1:42.725. Rosberg soon went fastest amid reports of rain with a 1:41.063 after previously setting a slower lap. Hamilton settled in behind Rosberg and Alonso with a 1:42.142. Once again, we saw a success of the rule allowing an extra set of tyres for runners in the first half hour with a near full circuit gave fans in China and around the world something to enjoy.
Rosberg and Alonso both improved on their times, with the German being the first man to dip into the 1:40s (.840) then pitting after. Button and Hulkenberg both set quick times before, with 28 minutes of the session gone; Kimi finally stepped into his prancing horse. The thermal imaging cameras once again provided us with interesting images, demonstrating why cars were locking up at the end of the long straight with cold tyres.
The familiar lull of 30 minutes into the session then ensued as all drivers dived into the pits to ditch the first set of tyres and analyse the data so far. In his first outing with the Williams team, Felipe Nasr found himself down in 13th position as his teammate, the other Felipe, had managed 5th a full 1.9 seconds quicker.
News filtered through of Jules Bianchi having a fuel flow issue, which would see him side-lined for the session. Lewis’ engineer, Peter Bonnington, delivered the news of the Brit being down to Nico by a tenth in the first two sectors and 3 tenths in the final sector which was not met with a reply. The lull continued as the 18 degree track temperatures did nothing to entice people out onto the circuit.
Romain Grosjean was the first to break the silence on track (barely) clocking up valuable time for the Enstone team. The Frenchman improved to 7th and was joined by Daniil Kvyat, who was told he could enjoy the freedom of the circuit. The nurturing techniques of the Toro Rosso teams so far have paid dividends for the young Russian, which could be a lesson for other teams on how to treat their young drivers. (No sooner had I written this, he took too much speed into the turn 1 and spun – although he did manage to keep the engine running and recover)
The current World Champion stretched his legs and went 5th fastest, at the same time Alonso pushed his Ferrari to go 1 second quicker than the Mercedes of Rosberg setting a 1:39.783. Ricciardo went 2nd, followed by Hulkenberg who improved to 5th once more as times tumbled. With 35 minutes of the session left to run, Magnussen went 6th fastest and the Silver Arrows still yet to remerge for a second run on the tarmac.
There was no shock to hear it was the Mercedes (powertrained) cars that were fastest through the speed trap. Esteban Gutierrez trundled around at the back of the pack, not even managing to better the go quicker than Chilton down in 19th place. However, the team will be happy to have him out on track at all after a speedy repair from his mechanics.
Lewis Hamilton finally emerged with just under half an hour to go, not even finishing his timed lap before he regressing to his pit box and going back on the jacks. As another lull ensued, Bruno Senna took to inventing new words in the English language – electing for “admirating” instead of admiring. Ricciardo and Kvyat went back out on the circuit with just under 20 minutes to go. The Aussie being told to “get stuck into his tyres, then settle into a race pace.”
A group of cars made it out for a final time, mostly to simulate race conditions as tyre degradation has been very high in the cold conditions. Fortunately for those who struggle to get temperature into their tyres, qualifying is later in the day which should bring naturally higher ambient temperatures.
Hamilton’s short second run was caused by a lack of car balance bringing his session to a premature end, as the change of nose cone for Fernando Alonso provided some interest for observers. Rosberg, Vettel and Kvyat took trips off the tarmac in the closing stages, but the times did not change. The only surprise was that Bianchi did manage a cameo of laps, but still managed to go 0.5 seconds quicker than his teammate, as well as Gutierrez and Ericsson.
A cold FP1 session from Shanghai has provided very few answers for the weekend ahead, but has provided some great shots for cameramen as the cars frequently locked up down in turn 14. Alonso topped it, but what a surprise that would be if it stays the same way for the rest of the weekend. More bad luck for the Finn will be a set back at the worst possible time as he looks to impress the new boss.
Nobody has really shown their hand just yet, so still all to play for!