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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2015After Ferrari scored a shock victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Mercedes’ fight-back against the Scuderia began today with the two Friday practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in both sessions, with Nico Rosberg taking second in FP1 but 5th in FP2.

Hamilton’s advantage in the first session was evident, as he was half a second ahead of team-mate Rosberg in 2nd place. The team’s nearest rivals Ferrari couldn’t get within a second of Hamilton; with 3rd placed Vettel 1.1 seconds down on Lewis. Vettel’s team-mate Raikkonen was a further half a second down on Sebastian in P4.

Sauber has shown reasonable pace at the season opening round 4 weeks ago in Australia, with both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson scoring points. This pace seemed to dissipate in Malaysia but the team look slightly stronger in Shanghai, with Nasr 5th in first practice. Ericsson could only manage 14th out of 20 runners.

The two Red Bull cars struggled in Malaysia with brake problems, but the team announced in the last week that they will switch back to the supplier Brembo that the team had used last year. Ricciardo was 6th fastest and was 1.9 seconds down on P1, with team-mate Kvyat just behind in 7th by a few hundredths of a second. Junior team driver Carlos Sainz was just behind his fellow Red Bull-sponsored drivers in 8th place for Toro Rosso; despite complaining of a lack of speed on the famous back-straight.

The two Williams drivers completed the top 10 in practice, with Valtteri Bottas just ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who had suffered a spin at turn 14 during the session. Lotus third driver Jolyon Palmer made his first appearance in a Grand Prix weekend as he commandeered Romain Grosjean’s car for the session. He finished in 15th place and was just 6 tenths off of Pastor Maldonado’s fastest lap in the sister car.

Friday practice one results:

POS Driver Team Time Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’39.033 21
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’39.574 21
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’40.157 18
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’40.661 27
5 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’41.012 18
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’41.029 21
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1’41.097 24
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1’41.112 23
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’41.303 23
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1’41.304 17
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1’41.335 23
12 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1’41.575 28
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1’41.845 19
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’41.918 24
15 Jolyon Palmer Lotus 1’41.967 25
16 Sergio Perez Force India 1’42.141 22
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’42.161 20
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’42.184 19
19 Will Stevens Manor 1’45.379 18
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 1’46.443 20

Embedded image permalinkLewis Hamilton continued to hold the top-spot in the second 90-minute session in Shanghai; but the Silver Arrows’ rivals appeared to have made gains in the gap between sessions. Hamilton bettered his FP1 time by 1.8 seconds to set a 1’37.2; but his nearest rival was now within half a second of him. What made matters worse is that it wasn’t his team-mate, it was Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. The Finn was 4 tenths down on Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and the second Ferrari of Vettel continuing to the two Mercedes team-mates apart. Rosberg finished the session down in 5th place, with exactly the same time as Vettel, and was 1.1 seconds off of Hamilton. Perhaps what is more interesting is that Mercedes seemed to be fastest on the soft tyre, but Ferrari were even with them on the longer-runs on the medium compound.

Daniil Kvyat managed to be 6th fastest in the second session, but similar problems to those he experienced in Sepang seemed to return; with the Russian’s Red Bull starting to smoke after a pit-stop. Valtteri Bottas was 7th fastest for Williams, with team-mate Massa failing to make the top 10 after losing control of his car under-braking; which put the Brazilian’s car in the wall slightly. This caused the one and only red flag.

Felipe Nasr continued to show reasonable pace for Sauber in 8th place, with Romain Grosjean just behind for Lotus in 9th place. Jenson Button was 10th fastest for McLaren; an impressive feat considering the team’s recent struggles to get to grips with the new Honda power-unit. He was 2 seconds down on former team-mate Hamilton’s time.

One of the stranger moments of the session occurred when a spectator appeared to run across the track on the start/finish straight. The spectator ran from the grand-stand side of the circuit toward the pit-wall. The session was surprisingly uninterrupted.

Friday practice two results:

POS Driver Team Time Laps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’37.219 32
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’37.662 35
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’38.311 24
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’38.339 30
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.399 35
6 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1’38.737 10
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’38.850 27
8 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’39.032 26
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’39.142 32
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1’39.275 29
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1’39.444 30
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’39.743 27
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’39.751 33
14 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1’39.894 32
15 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1’39.971 28
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’40.151 28
17 Felipe Massa Williams 1’40.423 7
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1’40.868 24
19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1’42.973 27
20 Will Stevens Manor 1’44.564 8


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Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
A graduate in Public, Social and Political Communication from the University of Bologna, he has always been passionate about marketing, design and sport.
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