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Practice One - Red Bull rampant 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 Heidfeld loses control, ending his practice session Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) HRT F111 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 15 April 2011 Razia breaks his front wing

You had to look for the happy faces in the Shanghai paddock at the top of the Friday morning timesheets, and at the bottom. No question, Red Bull trounced their opposition in this opening free practice session, with Sebastian Vettel ending up a whopping 0.615s ahead of team mate Mark Webber, 1m 38.739s to 1m 39.354s.

The closest anyone else got was Lewis Hamilton’s 1m 40.845s in the lead McLaren, with team mate Jenson Button next up on 1m 40.940s and Nick Heidfeld fifth for Renault on 1m 40.987s.

A 2.1s gap from McLaren to Red Bull is unlikely, however, and we should bear in mind that Hamilton set his time early in the session, and that the Woking team were evaluating upgraded parts. Also that Heidfeld stopped out on the circuit after his quick lap (the German lost control and nosed his R31 into the tyre wall)… Let’s not read too much into things just yet.

Felipe Massa was Ferrari’s faster runner with 1m 41.046s, then came interloping Sergio Perez on 1m 41.189s for Sauber, Pastor Maldonado on 1m 41.222s before he spun his Williams, Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault on 1m 41.231s, Sebastien Buemi on 1m 41.328s for Toro Rosso, Nico Rosberg on 1m 41.361s for Mercedes, Fernando Alonso in the other Ferrari on 1m 41.434s, Nico Hulkenberg in Adrian Sutil’s Force India on 1m 41.494s, Heikki Kovalainen in a very promising run for Lotus on 1m 41.579s, spinner Paul di Resta on 1m 41.610s in the second Force India, Daniel Ricciardo in Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso in 1m 41.752s and Rubens Barrichello in 1m 41.939s in the second Williams. Again, that’s a dozen cars within a second of one another.

Michael Schumacher just failed to break 1m 42, with 1m 42.301s in the second Mercedes, then came Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 42.752s in the second Sauber.

Those happy faces at the bottom of the timesheets? They were in the HRT camp. Tonio Liuzzi’s car might have rolled to a silent halt right at the end, but the upgrade to the F111 put it very close to Virgin’s pace. Jerome D’Ambrosio was 20th on 1m 44.089s as team mate Timo Glock spent much of practice in the garage, but Liuzzi was right there with 1m 44.359s, just ahead of Glock on 1m 44.438s.

Then came debutant Luis Razia who did a reasonable job in Jarno Trulli’s Lotus until he ran out of road and damaged the left side of the front wing after working down to 1m 44.542s. At the back, Narain Karthikeyan was 24th in the other HRT on 1m 45.019s.

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