Ferraris Felipe Massa set an incredible pace to top the timesheets at the end of Chinese Grand Prix practice on Friday after Nico Rosberg had led a Mercedes one-two in the morning session.
In terms of everybody else on the tyre,the pace is not good,its incredible, declared the Brazilians race engineer Rob Smedley after Massa set a quickest time of one minute 35.340 on the soft Pirelli tyre being used for the first time this season.
Kimi Raikkonen,winner of Formula Ones Melbourne season-opener in March,was second fastest for Lotus in 1:35.492 at the circuit outside Shanghai.
When I fitted the softs,the car improved a lot… it was impressive,like driving two completely different cars, said Massa,who has out-qualified team mate Fernando Alonso in the last four races.
Our race pace looks competitive,the car is handling well on both types of tyre and degradation was not excessive,even if the higher wear rate of the soft compared to the medium compound will be an important factor when it comes to choosing the right strategy.
Last years winner Rosberg had lapped in 1:36.717 before lunch,with 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton 0.454 slower. Teams focused largely on longer runs in the afternoon. The German has led the race in Shanghai in the past three editions while his 2012 win at the circuit was the first of his F1 career.
Hamilton,third in Malaysia last month after Rosberg was ordered not to overtake because of concerns the cars might run out of fuel,is the only driver to have won twice in China.
Red Bulls Mark Webber,whose working relationship with world champion Sebastian Vettel hit a new low after a team orders storm in Malaysia,ended both sessions ahead of the German.
Webber was third and fifth respectively while Vettel was fourth and 10th. It was a tricky day for us. I seemed to struggle a little bit more this afternoon; the gap to the guys at the top is a bit bigger than I would like, Vettel said. But we have two or three things to work on and we should be in better shape tomorrow.
Alonso lapped fifth in the morning and third in the afternoon,but with a car in a different specification to Massas,while McLarens Jenson Button was sixth in both. We cant yet conclusively tell if the upgrades we brought to this race have improved the car. Theyre perhaps not as big a step forward as wed expected. The issues with the car are still there – but the car does feel a little bit better, Button said.
Qualifying: live on Star Sports,11:30 am