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Friday analysis - are Mercedes really in the hunt? 13 Apr 2012

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1 and Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Timo Glock (GER) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012

After a slippery first session teams spent the afternoon dialling in their cars on a dry but cold track. The conditions made it difficult for many to get their front tyres switched on fully. Mercedes may have topped the times, but a closer look at long-run pace suggested McLaren and Red Bull remain the most likely victory contenders. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Shanghai…

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 38.316s, P3/1m 35.973s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.116s, P2/1m 36.617s, P5

Mercedes were boosted by the stewards’ unanimous decision on the legality of their DRS system, and Schumacher said he was happy with the way his day went as he set the overall quickest lap. Rosberg said he learned a lot, but that he struggled to get the front tyres working in the cold conditions.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 37.106s, P1/1m 36.145s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 39.199s, P8/1m 36.711s, P6

Hamilton was very happy after spending time in the morning gathering data and then setting that session’s fastest time, then going second fastest to Schumacher in FP2. Button was less happy with the balance of his MP4-27, and a front brake locking problem.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 39.198s, P7/1m 36.160s, P3
Mark Webber, 1m 38.977s, P6/1m 36.433s, P4

While Webber stuck with the standard 2012 exhaust set-up, Vettel tried one which was similar to the original design from early winter testing, then a fresh iteration of the Malaysian system. Both drivers gathered an awful lot of data for overnight processing, but though he was happy with his car Vettel felt McLaren still had an edge overall.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 38.911, P5/1m 36.956s, P7
Sergio Perez 1m 38.584s, P4/1m 37.417s, P11

No major problems to report here as the team set about building on their tremendous performance in Malaysia, though Perez was frustrated that his car felt less balanced in the afternoon than it had in the morning, with locking brakes an issue.

Force India
Paul di Resta (pm only), 1m 36.966s, P8
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 40.328s, P14/1m 37.191s, P9
Jules Bianchi (am only) 1m 44.118s, P20

Di Resta showed no sign of having missed FP1 so that Jules Bianchi could get a run then, and set a comfortable eighth fastest time in FP2. Both the Scot and team mate Hulkenberg were happy with the way their days went, while Bianchi acquitted himself well in FP1 on his first official at-a-race appearance.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 40.056s, P11/1m 37.316s, P10
Felipe Massa, 1m 40.153s, P12/1m 38.293s, P17

Alonso did aero work in FP1 and race running in FP2 and said things went okay but that Ferrari are still off the pace. Massa struggled in the afternoon as he was a victim of Glock’s shunt and thus lost the benefit of a fresh set of tyres which could have significantly improved his lap time.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.748s, P9/1m 37.616s, P12
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 39.768s, P10/1m 37.930s, P14

No real problems to report here, with both drivers believing they will have better set-ups for FP3 and qualifying.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 50.465s, P24/1m 37.836s, P13
Romain Grosjean, 1m 41.204s, P17/1m 37.972s, P15

Lotus struggled more than most to get the right tyre temperatures, and definitely underperformed. Neither got the balance they sought. Raikkonen also lost time in FP1 with a DRS activation problem.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 40.540s, P15/1m 38.176s, P16
Bruno Senna (pm only), 1m 38.783s, P18
Valtteri Bottas (am only), 1m 40.298, P13

No real problems here as the team massaged their car in tricky conditions. Bottas again impressed in FP1, especially as he had never driven an F1 car in the wet before.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 41.071s, P16/1m 38.990s, P19
Vitaly Petrov (pm only), 1m 39.346s, P20
Giedo van der Garde (am only) 1m 42.521s, P19

Kovalainen and Petrov both lamented lack of grip, and the Russian lost time with a front suspension setting change, so both believe there is more to come tomorrow. Van der Garde did a good job in FP1, especially given how easy it would have been to mess up in the tricky conditions.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 42.330s, P18/1m 39.651s, P21
Charles Pic, 1m 44.500s, P22/1m 40.753s, P23

Glock was revelling in much improved aerodynamic performance in FP1 and FP2 until the nosebox of his Marussia worked loose going into Turn 1 in the latter. The car lost downforce and slid sideways into the tyre-protected retaining wall. Fortunately he was shaken but unharmed, and the car is repairable. It transpired that the problem was an ‘operational’ one (which usually means finger trouble) rather than anything fundamental. Pic got all of his programmes done for the day as he learned another new circuit.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 44.227s, P21/1m 40.343s, P22
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 47.204s, P23/1m 41.125s, P24

HRT made some demonstrable progress after Malaysia, even if the morning session was inconclusive because of the conditions. De la Rosa was happy to split the Marussias in FP2, when Karthikeyan said he had some problems with his brakes but was otherwise satisfied.

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