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Friday analysis - plenty to ponder in China 15 Apr 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) F111. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011

Under Friday’s very overcast skies the teams focused mainly on learning about set-up, actuation of their drag reduction rear wings, KERS and how the hard and soft compound Pirelli tyres behaved on the Shanghai International Circuit. The track remained slippery throughout the day, and generally tyre degradation levels seem to be between those in Melbourne and Malaysia, with Pirelli expecting most to pit twice on race day. We take a team-by-team look at progress…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 38.739s, P1/1m 37.688s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 39.354s, P2/1m 39.327s, P10

Neither Red Bull driver reported any significant problems. Webber said his soft-tyre run was spoiled by traffic, while Vettel predicts it will be tight in qualifying and the race. The team are looking at their KERS again overnight.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 40.845s, P3/1m 37.854s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 40.940s, P4/1m 37.935s, P3

Both McLaren drivers felt the balance of their MP4-26s could have been better, and the team will spend Friday evening figuring out whether that’s because they just didn’t get the set-up perfected or because new components aren’t working exactly as expected.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 41.361s, P11/1m 37.943s, P4
Michael Schumacher, 1m 42.301s, P18/1m 38.105s, P5

Rosberg said Mercedes made a small step forward in the morning and learned some positive things about the MGP W02’s balance. Schumacher thought that a change in working approach had been beneficial, concentrating mainly on high-fuel loads because that proved an easier way of finding a decent set-up than starting with low-fuel levels.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 41.046s, P6/1m 38.507s, P6
Fernando Alonso, 1m 41.434s, P12/1m 39.779s, P14

Ferrari are expecting to struggle again in qualifying from what they found on Friday, but Massa said his car was quite good over a long run. Alonso hit hydraulic problems in both sessions, said he wasn’t sure whether new aero parts had worked, and generally seemed downbeat as he expects Red Bull and McLaren to be stronger this weekend.

Force India
Adrian Sutil (pm only), 1m 38.735s, P7
Paul di Resta, 1m 41.610s, P15/No time
Nico Hulkenberg (am only), 1m 41.494s, P13

Sutil for once sat out the morning session as Hulkenberg did some useful aero and weight distribution work in his car, but was very pleased with seventh-fastest time in the afternoon when he felt that upgrades had helped the VJM04’s stability. Di Resta went well in the morning, but lost the afternoon session - and effectively three sets of tyres - thanks to a fuel pressure problem.

Renault
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 40.987s, P5/1m 38.805s, P8
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 41.231s, P9/1m 38.859s, P9

Heidfeld uncharacteristically went off in both sessions, damaging his Renault’s nose and interrupting his programmes, but was generally pleased with the R31’s pace. Petrov complained of understeer on the hard rubber but said the softs had a lot more grip.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 43.792s, P19/1m 39.538s, P11
Sergio Perez, 1m 41.189s, P7/1m 39.953s, P17

Kobayashi complained of less than ideal balance on his C30, while Perez nursed a head cold.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 41.222s, P8/1m 39.667s, P12
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 41.939s, P17/1m 39.925s, P16

Maldonado said he had a good day apart from a spin in the morning, but Barrichello, the guinea pig for some new parts, had problems with a new exhaust system he ran in the afternoon.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 41.328s, P10/1m 39.771s, P13
Jaime Alguersuari (pm only), 1m 39.828s, P15
Daniel Ricciardo (am only) 1m 41.752s, P16

Once again Ricciardo did a solid job for the team in the morning, this time in Alguersuari’s car. Buemi was the star on Friday, however. He and Riccardo had technical problems on their best laps, while Alguersuari complained about traffic.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 41.579s, P14/1m 40.476s, P18
Jarno Trulli (pm only), 1m 41.482s, P19
Luiz Razia (am only) 1m 44.542s, P23

Razia made his debut in the morning and showed well until a suspension problem resulted in front wing damage. But the excitement was Kovalainen’s speed in both sessions as the team began to get the best from the T128. The Finn thought the balance wasn’t as good in the afternoon, a problem about which Trulli also complained.

HRT
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 45.019s. P24/1m 42.902s, P20
Tonio Liuzzi, 1m 44.359s, P21/1m 43.850s, P21

HRT had a good morning until Liuzzi’s car glided to a halt with hydraulic problems which restricted him to a single lap in the afternoon. Both he and Karthikeyan, who ran strongly in the afternoon, showed that the aero update had moved the F111 well clear of Virgin.

Virgin
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 44.089s, P20/1m 44.008s, P22
Timo Glock, 1m 44.438s, P22/1m 44.747s, P23

Virgin had a difficult day, and the internal feeling is that both drivers took the MVR-02 as far as it could go in its current guise pending an update for Turkey.

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