Nico Rosberg has led almost of the laps at the Chinese Grand Prix over the last three seasons and the German’s affliation to the Shanghai circuit showed no signs of abating following the opening practice session of the weekend with the Mercedes driver dominaing FP1.
Rosberg ended the session comfortably fastest ahead of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, with the Red Bull’s of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber next up but a second off the pace.
The Red Bull drivers have been setting the headlines in the lead up to this race and the tension within their garage is palpable after Vettel admitted yesterday that he would ignore team orders again if faced with a similar request from the team.
The action was slow to start in Shanghair with the sparse crowd having to wait for over half of the session before the drivers set a fast lap with Jenson Button one of the first drivers to do so. The former world champion has had a very difficult start to the season but setting the sixth fastest time, sandwiched by both Ferrari’s, will have given the Englishman confidence.
His teammate, Sergio Perez, on the otherhand had an embarrassing end to the session by crashing his McLaren into the pitlane enterance gravel trap in an incident that mirrored Hamilton’s infamous 2007 crash that ultimately cost him the title as a rookie.
Ferrari said before this weekend that they were happy with their race pace so far this season but that it was clear that they were lacking single lap pace. Opening practice backed this view with Massa setting the pace initially before falling down the order to seventh but with Alonso fifth, and over 1.2s off the pace it is clear that this weekend the team has a lot of work to do if they are to qualify well.
Shanghai is one of the easier tracks to overtake on, with the long DRS enabled back straight, but if Mercedes are capable of maintaining thier opening practice speed there will be lots of competitive cars at the front of the field and Ferrari could even find themselves under pressure to scrape into the final qualifying session.
Adrian Sutil led the times at one point and ended the session in a very respectable eighth position, two spots ahead of his teammate di Resta. The Force India’s looked impressive once again this morning and if they have solved the wheel nut issues that plauged their pitstops in Malaysia the team should be in the mix for points on Sunday.
Kimi Raikkonen didn’t seem focused on setting a fast time in the session but ended the morning over two seconds off the pace will still have been a disappointment. The Finn’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, was ninth, with the Lotus team completing the least mileage of all over the course of the session.
Pastor Maldonado in 13th will have given Williams a confidence boast with last year’s Spanish Grand Prix looking much more comfortable with the car this morning. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was the fastast of the rookie quintet but was 17th fastest just ahead of Guitierez with Jules Bianchi next up.