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Chinese GP Day 1: Vettel holds McLarens at bay
Chinese GP Day 1: Vettel holds McLarens at bay
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Apr 2011   |  10:32 am GMT  |  101 comments

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel headed the times at the end of the first day of practice for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Vettel: Long runs strong (Red Bull)

The 23 year old world champion, who has led 109 of the 114 racing laps this season and taken pole in both Grands Prix so far, edged out the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

The times for all three men were set at the same time of the afternoon on new soft Pirelli tyres. But there was an interesting variation whereby Vettel’s time was set on the third lap of the run, while Hamilton’s and Button’s were on the first.

Button went on to do a longish run on the soft tyres, with laps in the mid 1m 44s, while Hamilton radioed in to say that the tyres were “finished” and he pitted at the end of that lap. Both McLaren drivers said that the car worked better on the hard tyre than the soft.

Vettel’s pace on long runs was strong and consistent. He did a 19 lap run at the start of the afternoon session on the hard tyre with laps mainly in the low 1m44s, working down to high 1m 43s. Team mate Mark Webber, who focussed on race preparation, didn’t do a new tyre performance run. Their combined work indicates that the Red Bull is looking after its tyres well. Webber did a 13 lap run on the soft tyre with times in the low 1m 43s, which no other team was able to match. Massa’s equivalent run in the Ferrari was in the high 1m43 and low 1m44s.

The Mercedes looked more competitive than of late with Nico Rosberg’s 1m 37.9s lap on soft tyres catching the eye, although it’s difficult to know whether he was carrying much less fuel than the Red Bull or the McLarens, which certainly didn’t appear to be running on low fuel.

Fernando Alonso’s afternoon was interrupted by a hydraulic issue which sidelined him for much of the second half of the session. He managed to get a run on soft tyres at the end. Nick Heidfeld lost much of the afternoon session after an off damaged his front wing and he had to be pushed back into the pit lane by mechanics for repairs.

Paul Di Resta missed the second session with a fuel system problem. “I think that I am a little more disadvantaged than I have been at any other Grand Prix now because effectively I have lost three sets of tyres and the important part where you try to do a bit of qualy and race simulation,” said the Scot.

Further back in the field was something to keep an eye on; Virgin had a frustrating afternoon, with an exhaust problem for Glock, but still managed 47 laps between the two cars. D’Ambrosio made a small mistake on his new tyre run, but was still slower than the Hispania cars. Fuel loads unknown, but it could be quite interesting back there in first qualifying tomorrow.

The 107% time from today was 1m 44.526, which was half a second slower than D’Ambrosio’s time.

Additional reporting: Tom Clarkson

Chinese Grand Prix, Free Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m37.688s 34 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m37.854s + 0.166 22 laps
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m37.935s + 0.247 31 laps
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.943s + 0.255 34 laps
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.105s + 0.417 29 laps
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.507s + 0.819 36
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m38.735s + 1.047 35 laps
8. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m38.805s + 1.117 26 laps
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m38.859s + 1.171 31 laps
10. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m39.327s + 1.639 33 laps
11. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.538s + 1.850 33 laps
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m39.667s + 1.979 37 laps
13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m39.771s + 2.083 18 laps
14. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.779s + 2.091 17
15. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m39.828s + 2.140 25 laps
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m39.925s + 2.237 32 laps
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.953s + 2.265 30 laps
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m40.476s + 2.788 30 laps
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m41.482s + 3.794 32 laps
20. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.902s + 5.214 25 laps
21. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m43.850s + 6.162 3 laps
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m44.008s + 6.320 35 laps
23. Timo Glock Virgin 1m44.747s + 7.059 12 laps

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Vettel has so much in reserve that I genuinely dont think the Mclarens will worry him tomorrow. He wont streak away because of the tyres but whenever Mclaren look fast Seb always has another half a second in his pocket.

As for whether F1 is endurance racing, it clearly isnt. 6 hours onwards is what you call Endurance racing as found in the Le Mans Endurance Series funnily enough.

Mark Hughes said on autosport yesterday that Hamilton is struggling to reign in his talent for the sake of tyre management. This is sad to hear as F1 should be about the best and fastest drivers driving to their full potential.

Who here honestly finds tyre management exciting compared to two drivers duelling it out at the limit in a final stint with the tyres having no effect on their performance!?

Who on here would rather watch a race like last weekend or a race like suzuka 05 or spa 00?

F1 has become tyre obssessed, I dont watch F1 for the tyres, I watch it for the cars, the drivers, the skill and most importantly the racing!

Some on here seem to be brainwashed by pirelli!


I think Red Bull and McLaren will be on the first two rows of the grid in China. I think Red Bull has the edge over McLaren by 0.457 seconds or 4-5 tenths of a second. Renault and Ferrari will take up rows 3 and 4, trailing Red Bull by 1.053 and 1.078 seconds respectively, or by 1.0-1.1 seconds. Mercedes and Sauber will take up rows 5 and 6, with Mercedes 1.433 or 1.4-1.5 seconds behind Red Bull and Sauber 1.750 or 1.7-1.8 seconds behind Red Bull. Rows 7, 8 and 9 will be taken up by Force India, Toro Rosso and Williams. Force India behind by 2.526 or 2.5-2.6 seconds, Toro Rosso behind by 2.648 or 2.6-2.7 seconds, Williams behind by 2.818 or 2.8-2.9 seconds. Row 10 will be taken by Lotus. They are behind by 4.789 or 4.7-4.8 seconds. The last two rows will be taken by HRT and Virgin. HRT behind by 6.264 or 6.2-6.3 seconds, and Virgin behind by 6.741 or 6.7-6.8 seconds.

On the Hamilton tyre issue, I think he was completely and utterly riled by the start Heidfeld made in Malaysia, as well as getting into traffic after a poor pit stop, and the anger built up so much in Hamilton that he felt he had to release it some way, which Hamilton usually vents his anger towards his tyres, usually saying that my tyres have gone. I think that Hamilton is a misunderstood person in that what he says is sometimes not actually what he is saying. Another example of Hamilton getting riled was in Abu Dhabi last year. It all started in the pits when McLaren produced a poor stop and he got stuck behind Kubica. A short time later, Hamilton said on the radio that my tyres are gone, even though he was setting great lap times. I think Ron Dennis said on the radio that if you want to be world champion, you cannot pit. I think even his own team misunderstand him, especially Martin Whitmarsh as he is not as ruthless as Ron Dennis. Another driver in F1 who was also misunderstood was Aryton Senna, and he was a total genius. So to say that Hamilton struggles in tyre management is total rubbish. To say that people within his team and within Formula 1 misunderstand him, well that is totally plausible, if not confirmed.

Hamilton is not only the fastest driver in F1, he is also one of the best at tyre management, and I am sure of that.


Fast car should win, it’s very simple. It’s exciting to see the runner up team can beat them or not.
And if they not, just wait for the next race. I don’t think the big name like Mclaren or Ferrari will give up easily.
This is fun when the bigger team try to chasing the small team.


I like Seb Vettel he´s a leaf of fresh air and the only one worth listen or read on formula 1, he´s funny and relaxed.

I can understand about people not being happy with the same guy winning but saying that he´s not fast it´s very unfair and rude.


I really hope we see some racing on Sunday. As much as the tyres add to the excitement, i would have a race long battle for position than have the finishing order decided on the last lap with all sorts of strategies crossing over one another.


I think its interesting that Red Bull spent most of practice pounding away laps while everyone else was aiming for lap times. Heidfeld has had quite a weekend with two shunts, though he managed to get his car partwa back after the second shunt. It looked to me like his rear tyres were breaking loose- so I guess the good news for Lotus/Renault is they have a pointy car.

The 107 percent rule should make qualy very interesting again. Last year the best Q1 time was 1:35.641 by Hamilton, the slowest time was 1:40.578 by Karun Chandok in an HRT, Fastest lap during the race was a 1:42.061, also by Hamilton.


Guys i don’t think anyone is giving Vettel enough credit on the site at the moment.

Everyone is criticising him and the season. Didn’t see it when old JB was destroying everyone at the start of the 09 season.

Im not Vettel’s biggest fan but the guy is class. Fastest driver on the grid at the moment, give everyone a RedBull and he would still be winning IMO.

Also I think it’s interesting how his competitors, mainly Hamilton (probably because he is his closest challenger atm) is trying to knock Seb out of his stride with some mind games. Will be interesting to see how this develops throughout the season, and if Fernando joins in once the Ferrari is battling (if this happens).


You know the bit i loved about today was, that ferrari favoured alonso over massa (again) with the aero updates and HIS was the car that had problems!! haha! really hope poor massa finishes ahead AGAIN!


lets not kid ourselves…

Seb will put it on pole…

Seb will run away at the start.. and in 8 laps have built a 8 seconds lead and from there will control.


James, is there any update on FOTA and the new RRA? Rumour was one team was holding out, can you share anything?


Vettel is really in supreme form – cannot see anyone beating him this weekend unless there are some strategy/reliability issues.


Lewis really can’t be locking up tyres. Despite being a couple of tenths shy of Lewis on one lap pace I think Jenson clearly has the advantage when it comes to the Grand Prixs this season.


Virgin seem to have taken over from Toyota as the team with the least charisma.


We’re about to start race 3 of the season. Can everyone stop panicking about Vettel winning everything, and how dominant the RB looks. Remember the whole Brawn thing?

And he hardly ran away with it last season, and I seem to remember people being fearful of the Red Bull’s pace at the start of that season too.

Just calm down. And besides, if he’s the fastest in the fastest car, then that’s motorsport. You don’t start talking about putting lead into Usain Bolt’s shoes just because he wins so often. And yes, he has the best equipment too.

Just calm down. Other drivers will get their chance.


spot on


Mark Hughes wrote for Autosport Plus that Red Bull ran with less than optimal understeer in Malaysia to preserve the tyres in the heat. With just one stop planned for China he says they are able to run more normal here. I’m not sure what he means here because an understeering car will slide at the front, I would have thought.

He also spoke about how Hamilton is struggling to have to reign in his talent for the sake of the new tyres.


Is not slight understeer better than oversteer in terms of getting the power on early coming onto the straights? Rear tyres loose grip faster than fronts?


“He also spoke about how Hamilton is struggling to have to reign in his talent for the sake of the new tyres.”

What an extremely sad sentence to see.


I’m predicting a McLaren winner. Possibly a Hamilton pole position and a Button win.

And in that respect, I’m on my own 🙂


I’ve actually put my money on a Vettel/Hamilton win. Believe it or not,

. 😉


One observation I have alwas had, and I’m sure a lot of the board would be uterested to hear you thoughts on, is the “Lewis is harder on his tires” talk, I think it is something exaggerated by critics but played down by fans. I seems he can manage his tires in terms of peak performance as lon as others but then seems to just throw the towel in when maximum lap time is no longer possible, as seen by his dramatic off and resulting pit stop 4 laps from the end of malaysia. It seems a button or Vettel type could stretch a few more laps at proportionally slower pace on tyres that Hamilton would say are “finished”? Other than china 07? I don’t recal any set of hamiltons tyres beig completely spent when he pits, it seems more a lack of ability (or perhaps lack of desire) to lap a worn tire to stretch out his stints. Would he really have had to lap 5 seconds slower over the last 4 laps to not crash thus justifying his 21 second stop? He seems to dramatically state in races that his tires are “finished” or beg for another pit stop (korea2010) when it will obviously lose him positions but then post race talks about things like the team pitted me too soon or I managed my tres as good as the next guy. Again interested in your observations given the particularly volatile tire discussions this year.


I think Hamilton’s problems come from his frustration of not being able to fight at the sharp edge for yet another season, which is understandable. However the way he handles it is strange. He throws a tantrum and talks of his possible departure from Mclaren.


I’d agree if anything its frustration, I don’t think Hamiltion is l’enfant terrible.


Recall what Button said in the post race interview last week, he mentioned that going easy on the Pirellis isn’t always the best procedure and can in fact make them worse. Hamilton, as well as other drivers can say things over the old R/T that they need to take back post race or the Team Principal will chock up to a bit of the red mist.


I think Hamilton will always be slightly harder on his tyres than others as unlike the others he mostly drives on the limit, that’s what makes him the supreme racer he is.

That said if needs be he can look after his tyres as well as anyone


We are all still evaluating. He did well in Australia


So it’s Red Boring Racing again.

Vettel is gonna win this easy from pole. I think they’re playing the whole game. Saying it is tough out there and the others aren’t far away, but instead Vettel drove with much reservation in Malaysia. He could have gone a lot faster. Once they really get to know how the Pirelli’s behave on different circuits, they’re really unstoppable.

Sorry for the rant, but I don’t like seasons with one strong contender. And I don’t like races with a pole-sitter as winner.


I get a feeling RBR are toying with the opposition. They seem to perform only enough to be a little ahead of the chasing pack with plenty in reserve.

And whats happening with Hamilton – he has been on something. He has gone saying that loyalty means nothing to him and reverting himself to he is committed to McLaren on Friday. He seems so confused and frustrated chasing the Bulls.


He has *not* said “Loyalty means nothing to him”. This is a complete misrepresentation of what Hamilton said.


James it would be interesting to write something about the great english team called Williams and the problems that they are facing.Also what about the changes that might occur in the technical department?




Of vettel wins this one and the next Newey can start on 2012 car!

Poor Williams their poor form is reflected in their share price, €17.50 now! Anyone here bought any?


James, I think Jenson would have beaten Vettel’s time had he not got caught up in traffic on the 3rd lap on his soft tyres.

Also, I think the reason why Hamilton only did 1 lap and then reported the tyres were finished, was that he must have locked up and flat spotted them in the 3rd sector (possibly after the long straight), because after the 2nd sector, he was 3 tenths up.

Either way though – there concern is not 1 lap pace, but race pace. They look miles away at the moment. I guess they might go back to their old floor seeming as this new one looks like it create difficult balance for the drivers without adding any significant performance gain.


Agreed. An unbalanced car is just going to destroy the tyres. You could of got away with it last year, due to the Bridgestones, but not with the Pirellis this year. Sort out the balance, and then add the speed.


On Hamilton / McLaren stong ties


In Football when a club president says often that he’s committed to his manager you know with certainty that the sacking is in the pipeline.

These recent weeks a lot of vows of commitments are aired between Ham and McLaren which lets you think that the Briton is looking for somewhere where the grass is greener. Problem is where the grass is greener is the territory of other lions and as we know 2 lions can’t share the same territory without blood being shed.


Where else would Hamilton go besides Redbull?

The odds would favour Hamilton staying at McLaren as they are a top team and will provide Hamilton a chance of winning the WDC as much as any other top team over the next few years.

And it’s nice to see a top driver show some loyalty rather than keep swapping teams according to the highest bidder.


I agree and what a lovely analogy!


Just read an article in the Guardian about it. Hami is not a happy bunny, no, no.


His comments make him look nothing but arrogant and immature. If he wanted to be the all mighty champion he claims to be then he should help the team rather than bitch about them. They are the second fastest car on the grid, it’s not like mclaren have suddenly started running midfield and are shaming themselves. Time to grow up Lewis and stop throwing your toys out of the sandpit before you have none left


Yes, but ain’t it fun watching?


Vettel would beat Hamilton at Red Bull. Either by talent or old Marko pulling moves from within.

Hamilton tries to bring the psychological stuff ( he thinks he is senna remember) but he can’t actually handle it and makes mistakes.

Vettel is a cool character, he is laid back and happy go lucky. Mind games wont worry him and i’d advise Lewis to stop bothering and concentrate on not messing up his tyres or old JB will be cruising past….


I guess a lot of drivers\agents will, as the players\agents in football do (to pick up on the football analogy), keep their eyes open for other prospects… no? So maybe he is seeing what’s available elsewhere, McLaren (and other teams) will be keeping their eyes open too (for drivers, engineers\designers etc) despite suggestions (now) of longer contracts for their drivers. It’s natural.

And I don’t think Hamilton is afraid of taking anyone on – he’d back himself against anyone. There are lots of drivers currently on the grid who have that attitude, so I concur that there’d likely be tension (or sheding of blood)… but again, that’s natural surely? If you can’t win; next target is to beat your team-mate 🙂


And when I say “beat”… I don’t mean with a stick (to shed blood) 😉

However, you can say that IF Ham was looking about, then Ferrari would be off limits for the time being 🙂 I don’t expect to see Fernando and Lewis paired up again in the same team, in the future… do you? 🙂


Hello James

I used to like following your ‘friday form guide’ article on ITV F1 page, i was wondering if you don’t write that article anymore. The other thing is that how early will the redbull’s will finish off the season? I am guessing that pireli and the new regulations might be on cause if the competetion is knocked out too early into the season.


All in all interesting session. Bulls seem to be slightly further ahead then Malaysia, but then they (Vettel) never really had to stretch their legs.

The fast starting Renaults should be the ones to look out for after the bulls due to their race wrecking abilities at the start of the race. FP3 should shed more light on respective long run pace. 🙂

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