Lewis Hamilton sets the pace on first day of practice in China as Alonso splits the Mercs
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Apr 2014   |  8:33 am GMT  |  146 comments

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton set the pace on the first day of running in Shanghai, but Fernando Alonso’s performance in the Ferrari meant that it was not the customary Mercedes 1-2 on the time sheets. In front of new boss Marco Mattiacci, the Spaniard set the second fastest time, just over a tenth slower than Hamilton. He had been the pace setter in the morning session.

Nico Rosberg was third, ahead of the Red Bull pair, with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton had a problem with the suspension on his Mercedes earlier in the day, but was on form in the afternoon session, setting competitive times in both the qualifying simulations and the long runs looked very strong, especially on the medium tyres, as did Rosberg.

Pastor Maldonado had a troubled session, crashing at the pit lane entry, damaging the Lotus. The Venezuelan was already under the spotlight after being hit with three points on his licence for causing a collision with Gutierrez in Bahrain.

But team mate Romain Grosjean was closer to the pace than Lotus has been thus far this season in 9th, using the updated Renault engine and aerodynamic developments.

There was quite a lot of tyre graining for many runners, in some cases quite early on the long runs on the soft tyres, four or five laps into the run. But the problem cleared up after a graining phase, with Nico Rosberg able to run in the mid 1m 44s after 12 laps on the soft tyre. Red Bull and Ferrari looked to have less problems with graining and degradation than others. The graining reduced with higher temperatures, as one would expect. The medium tyre looked both durable and fast and could well be the preferred race tyre once teams have done the analysis.

Many drivers suffered the customary Shanghai problem of preserving the front left tyre, which is the one which gets the most stress through the long Turns 1 and 13.

Williams noticeably did a lot more running than in Bahrain, gathering homework and data on tyre performance. The team has suffered higher tyre degradation than others and this has cost them points so far this season. Bottas worked on a 22 lap run on medium tyres, while team mate Felipe Massa worked on the softs.

New Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci made his first appearance in the pits, wearing sunglasses throughout the session, as he moved around the Ferrari garage, getting up to speed on the team he will lead from now on. He was due to give his first media briefing a couple of hours after the session ended.

It is set to be wet for qualifying on Saturday, with better weather forecast for Sunday’s Grand Prix, where the homework carried out today on the tyres will be crucial. The track is likely to be green after the rain on Saturday, so graining in the opening stint of the race on Sunday will be significant.

But teams will likely have a free choice of starting tyres after the expected wet qualifying, so the strategy should be fascinating on Sunday. Some teams may be attracted by the performance of the medium tyres today to consider starting on that tyre, especially if they are likely to be in traffic for the opening stint.

CHINESE GRAND PRIX, Shanghai, Free Practice 2
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.315s 25 Laps
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.456s +0.141s 28
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.726s +0.411s 30
4. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m38.811s +0.496s 30
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m39.015s +0.700s 31
6. Felipe Massa Williams 1m39.118s +0.803s 25
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m39.283s +0.968s 25
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1m39.491s +1.176s 29
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.537s +1.222s 36
10. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m39.648s +1.333s 26
11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m39.736s +1.421s 30
12. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m39.744s +1.429s 29
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m39.759s +1.444s 28
14. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m39.830s +1.515s 25
15. Sergio Perez Force India 1m40.124s +1.809s 32
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m40.359s +2.044s 32
17. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m40.395s +2.080s 30
18. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1m40.455s +2.140s 12
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m42.327s +4.012s 27
20. Max Chilton Marussia 1m43.473s +5.158s 30
21. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1m43.530s +5.215s 32
22. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1m43.679s +5.364s 32

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I have read that Martin Whitmarsh is likely to get a payout from McLarens of 10 million. If this is the case then it is obscene. These guys get paid fairly handsomly while they are in the job so why would they get these golden handshakes when they leave. For most of us we work 40 hours (or whatever) we get paid at the end of the week and everything is equal. How or why these people think they deserve more is beyond me. With this sort of carry-on it’s no wonder things cost what they do. It reminds you of the corrupt bankers a few years back.


short space of time, I meant. Lol.


Gotta wait for race pace on Sunday then we’ll know if Ferrari has caught up, but I don’t think it will just happen in a host space of time.

Weather forecasts a dry race but I hope it will be rain then dry up bit by bit, just maybe this weekend that will happen.

Maldo is such an embarrassment to F1.


This is a grand prix where we are gonna see a big gap between Kimi and Fernando with the latter being quicker. Front limited circuit and Kimi’s still not having the “feeling” he needs to drive confidently.


Questions for James,

In relation to the penalty points system.

If a driver racks up the 12 points and is forced to sit out, can the team bring in their spare / another driver during the ban to take over the car?

And if so, if the offending driver hit the 12 points in a practice / qualifying session, could the replacement driver step in immediately and compete on the same weekend?

I couldn’t find a reference to this in the F1 regs.

Thanks in advance.


I would say that since Lotus were allowed to bring in D’Ambrosio to replace Grosjean a couple years ago they should be able to do the same now.

From F1.com: “Teams may use up to four drivers during a season, all of whom may score points in the championship. A driver change may be made with the permission of the stewards any time before the start of qualifying”

So it looks to me like if the driver gets a ban during quali they’re out of luck.


I always look at the lap time list posted then automatically start counting back from 22, dropping out 1st qual, 2nd etc. Same old same old. There’s occasionally a joker gets in the way but mostly it’s sooo predictable.

I think Tony thought early on with dumping Cosworth at end of his first season in favour of Renault, his team would move up pretty smartly. Plan B failed and C is looking no better.

With the new look this season I was hopeful that the teams running at the r send would be in the pack, but nope still there, 2 – 3 seconds off the pace. It would be interesting to see a current DECENT driver have a run in any of the Caterham/Marussia cars and see if they can be lifted.(Only past F1 WDCs presently on the grid need apply – see, I’m trying to be fair here by letting Jenson have a shot ;-))

I really don’t believe too that Gene Hass with his Dullara daydream has any chance of seeing anything more then that same r send, even if he were to snag a Merc unit. I’t just complete the rear ended triangle.


Kimi also was in top-3 in practice in Malaysia and Alonso was regularly there and even topped once before. But we know what happened in races. Ferrari will suffer later.


James, how do Hamilton’s tires look in comparision to Rosberg’s after their fast runs?


To me both looked shot at the front it seems Mercedes needs to manage tyres more than they did at Bahrain.


Given the pace advantage Merc had last race, you would expect there to be a bigger gap to Ferrari. Either Ferrari have found 1.5 seconds (not very likely) or the Merc boys are not showing their hand.

James, do you think Lewis and Nico are holding back from each other. Since data is shared and they are the main rivals, there is no sense giving your rival valuable insight into your technique for this track.


New fuel from Shell, new rear wing, optimised software and probably this circuit suits Ferrari better than Bahrein. Still I expect them to drop behind Redbull but lets see.


Ferrari – fools gold even if they dominate just look back to last year.

Pretty disappointed with the normally excellent NBCS coverage last night. ESpecially Will Buxton who said RBR agreed they had exceeded the fuel flow rate on every lap. Not sure that is remotely true. Last race they said RBR didn’t even have a fuel flow sensor on board.

I expect another Merc walk away but as in all of the races so far the down grid races will be extremely entertaining.


Considering that mercedes has persistently made four attempts at there new shorter nose makes one wonder what programme th merc boys were running if they weren’t lighting up the time sheets. They arnt overselling their nose the way lotus oversold their twintusk


Just to put this in perspective, they are running over 6 seconds a lap slower than the lap record 1:32.238 – M Schumacher (2004)

Wow, just wow…


Most of the lap records were set circa 2004, but so what?

I’d rather see cars racing at 6 seconds slower per lap than following each other in formation at 6 seconds faster per lap.

And frankly with Maldonado in the mix maybe slower is better anyway 🙂


well then lets put them in pedal cars, they will be 6 hours slower and it will be a battle royal, and crashtor wont hurt anyone!

F1, pinnacle, period. Going backwards doesnt work for me.

Put another way, a car from 2004 would lap this field 3 times in a race of around 60 laps!

I am all for new technology, and frankly what has been done with these rules is incredible. No-one solves a design and production challenge better than the F1 fraternity, not aerospace, not NASA, not even the NSA.

Still, i am tired of slowing the cars down. Crap-box (but loads of fun) ChampCars from 2002 went this fast with manual steering, manual shifting, and slid all over the place.

And one more thing, fuel flow regulators aside, why restrict the amount of electrical energy per lap???

Take that away completely. Let the teams develop REAL serious hybrid power, the kind that can recharge in 30% of the lap and expend for 70%

Lap times go down, hybrids get better, trickle down gets better

i dont see the downside here.


Lol that’s okay – it happens to the best of us 🙂

I’m not saying you don’t have some good points there and I’m not saying that F1 cars shouldn’t be the fastest cars in the world, but given the choice between what we had in 2004 and what we have now I’d still take now.

As you say, going backwards doesn’t work.

As for what you suggest about the hybrid systems frankly I don’t understand enough about them to say why they couldn’t do that, but I would guess that as the technology improves we’ll start to see more electrical power generated in less time.

I have to assume that right now (regulations aside) the engine manufacturers and teams would be pushing to get the most out of them they can.


+1 million Wes!!

Mug you want close racing with no development then go watch a local Go Kart race, or NASCAR!!

F1 to me is about teams pushing the boundaries and creating the fastest, most technologically advanced racing series with the best pilots in the world testing their skills and being on the limit.

Current F1 is no where near that dream…


sorry, it would be about twice, F1 passion got the better of me!


Watch some of the videos from the 2004 season, the cars sounded great! cars looked great and most of all it was just visibly quicker back then. The cars now are just lame. Good thing Mercedes are at the front so all the Hamilton fans are not throwing a fit imagine if Mercedes were as slow as McLaren.


Ha! love that, they might start sounding like his royal hairness, LDM


Finally there’s some hope for us Tifosi!


Any information on why Kimi didn’t do any timed laps in the first practice? What was wrong with the car?


It appears that quali will be wet and race will be dry.

Please let it be the other way around.


Alonso is already showing the new boss who the real boss at Ferrari is.

Fernando "150%" Alonso

“Alonso splits the Mercs”? Samurai style? 😀


Well done 🙂


Is there any way to disqualify barriers for causing a collision of Pastor Maldonado?


No, but they were given three penalty points and they’re very sorry.


Maldonado. Lol, at least he attacked the barrier and not another driver!

Alexander Supertramp

Lewis gave a weird interview after FP2. I have a feeling not everything is great in that Mercedes garage.

Mclaren is in the ‘pack’, but rather on the blunt side of it. Red Bull seems to be best of the rest with good long run pace. I think they can take the fight to Mercedes in Barcelona.


Weird how? Have a link to the vid?

Alexander Supertramp

I think it was the sky interview after FP2. I don’t know, it just felt awkward. I’m probably imagining things!


Hi james.

Any news on why lewis was still not happy with his car despite the suspension being fixed???

Could it be a set up issue or track characteristics? How was his long run pace?


Wow.. people are hailing Ric for beating Vet in Practice 2 of the 4th race of a season. This is quite frankly ridiculous – hey may beat him this weekend but even still I’m making no conclusions and sure as hell not just after FP1 and FP2.

Glad to see one of the Lotus cars looking semi competitive finally. Fingers crossed for Grosjean to get some points and Maldonado not to make their insurance premium increase any more.


Agreed. I just read Button’s comments on Ricciardo being the only one that could challenge Mercedes, and just thought ‘there he goes again’. Button has said so many comments that turned out to be diametrically opposite to what eventually unfolded, that I’ve lost count.

For just one example, I harken back to his comments post-Malaysian GP 2012:

“Even after such a bad race – and that’s hopefully my bad race for the year gone – I’m still only 10 points off the lead, and that’s Alonso in a Ferrari. That’s not the worry.”


Stick to your own knitting, Jenson!

Patrick McLaughlin


Are Ferrari running light on a Friday ? They have been up there in most Friday sessions and then disappear in Practice 3.


Probably a bit. But most people run fairly light in quail sim runs.


Good point about the braking. We tend to think of how late into the corner before the brakes go on and much less about how early they might be taken off. I recall Lewis saying how quick Vettel was able to get on the power last year.

Might be a good topic for you to discuss and analyze James.


that was just a function of downforce , time having changed he so far seems unable to equal ricci this year

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