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Chinese GP 2014

APRIL 12, 2013

Practice 1 Report - Mighty Mercs.

Nico Rosberg
© The Cahier Archive

Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton dominated Friday morning's free practice session in China. They were nearly half a second quicker than Mark Webber who posted the third best time in his Red Bull.

There had been plenty of action in the paddock of the Shanghai International Circuit on Thursday with Sebastian Vettel saying "I would probably do the same" thing again regarding breaking team orders to steal the victory from Webber in Malaysia.

The on-track action began at 10 a.m. local time on Friday as the first free practice session of the weekend began. The track temperature was 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) and the ambient temperature was 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius.)

Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) was the first driver out on the circuit, followed by Caterham reserve driver Ma Qing Hua, who was replacing Charles Pic for the morning session, and Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso.)

Within a few minutes all the drivers had been out for their installation laps and brought their cars back into the garages to be checked over. As usual, everybody then waited for somebody else to go out and clean some of the dust off the racing line. Plus each team only wanted to use one set of tires per driver for the 90 minute session, so nobody was keen to use their tires up too early.

Pirelli brought its soft (yellow sidewall) and medium (white sidewall) compound slicks to China, and the drivers were using the medium compound tires for this session. Ten minutes into the session, Lewis Hamilton, who won here in 2011, headed out in his Mercedes, but he came back in at the end of the lap.

Then it was Vergne who was the only driver out on track for a single lap. Followed by Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber.) There were only a few spectators scattered around the vast grandstands, and they were not seeing much of a show.

Twenty minutes into the session, and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the rest of the drivers were lounging around in the garages.

Finally, 27 minutes into the session, the noise began as Qing Hua, Hamilton, Jenson Button (McLaren) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) were on track.

Thirty minutes into the session, Gutierrez became the first driver to post a lap time 1:43.097. Button soon beat that with a 1:41.798. Gutierrez answered with a 1:41.319. Button bounced back with a 1:41.308. Gutierrez topped that with a 1:40.834. Meanwhile, Qing Hua was third best with a time 10 seconds slower.

The track and the cars were getting faster. Button broke the 1:40 mark with a 1:38.262 and then pitted after completing a total of 7 laps in the session. Ma Qing Hua was improving and was now only 6 seconds slower than the best lap time.

Midway through the session, Kimi Raikkonen looked like he was going to clock the fastest time but he lost out in the final sector and ended up third with a 1:38.948 in his Lotus. Adrian Sutil then took top honors with a 1:38.125 in his Force India.

Raikkonen had a quick spin at Turn 9 and kept going.

Fifty minutes into the session, Felipe Massa moved to the top of the timing screens after turning a 1:38.095 in his Ferrari. But Nico Rosberg soon beat that with a 1:37.872 in his Mercedes. Next Webber turned a 1:37.658 in his Red Bull.

With just over 30 minutes remaining, Rosberg, winner here last year, grabbed the fastest time with a 1:36.904. Teammate Hamilton was second, .463 of a second slower.

With 30 minutes to go, the top six were Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Alonso and Button. Ma Qing Hua brought up the tail end and was 6.8 seconds slower than Rosberg. The Caterham team did not mind because Ma is paying a lot of money to drive the car in some of the Friday morning sessions.

Rosberg had improved to a 1:36.717 and Hamilton to a 1:37.171.

With 20 minutes to go, the top six remained the same, and the rest of the order was relatively unchanged as the drivers' tires were no longer in peak condition. Furthermore, drivers were now doing runs with lots of fuel on board. Vettel, for example, was turning laps in the 1:43 range, and the team radioed him to say this was the targeted pace.

And so the final minutes ticked off as the teams continued to do their homework for Sunday's race.

The top 10 were Rosberg, Hamilton, Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Button, Massa, Sutil, Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Paul di Resta (Force India.)

And Ma Qing Hua was solidly in 22nd and last place, 6.828 seconds off the pace.