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