The Chinese Grand Prix runs this weekend in Shanghai, with the so-far dominant Mercedes team looking to extend their drivers’ and manufacturer’s lead in the 2014 championship.
The Shanghai circuit is demanding on tyres, with 80 percent long-radius and high-speed corners, and the remaining 20 percent being the track’s two long straights. So a high-downforce package is crucial, as is selecting the right engine map to minimise wheel spin and damage to tyres. Pirelli have selected Medium and Soft compounds for the race, with weather conditions cool and dry, but potentially wet for qualifying and race.
Chinese Grand Prix – Practice 2 Report
During second practice, Mercedes headed the times in early running, and many of the cars were getting sideway exiting corners. The difference in lap time between the two tyre compounds was around two seconds in the cold conditions, with air temperature around 14C and track temperature around 21C.
Mercedes have been strong in the first three races of the year, but practice times show that Ferrari and Red Bull have closed the performance gap that was apparent in Bahrain. Force India, who preformed well in Bahrain with a podium and, may also show good race pace, although performance was patchy in practice.
There is a huge change at Ferrari, with the sudden resignation last week of team principal Stefano Domenicali, who in essence bit the bullet for the team’s poor performance this season. The resignation was carefully staged managed, but it seems to this commentator that he has decided to step down because he recognised change was needed at the top. His replacement, a man with no Formula 1 experience, but highly regarded by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo after working in the Middle East and America, is Marco Mattiacci. Elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen still seems to be having difficulty setting the car up, and this was not helped by technical problems keeping him in the garage for first practice.
Lewis Hamilton was also not very happy with the setup of his car in Practice 2, after suffering an apparent suspension failure in Practice 1 which was kept well away from TV cameras with a ‘wall of backs’ in the garage obscuring work taking place on the car.
Pastor Maldonado, suffering a five-place grid penalty for his spectacular collision with the Sauber of Gutierrez in Bahrain, caused himself huge embarrassment, firstly with a basic loss of attention adjusting settings on his steering wheel and spinning off the track in first practice, and then again he overcooked his turn in to the pit lane, sliding off the track into the tyres, damaging his front right suspension and front wing, meaning he took no further part in Practice 2. Team mate Romain Grosjean fared better, putting in a good number of laps and a reasonable time, and the Lotus car has a number of enhancements in place for this race which seem to be working on a car that has proved very problematic so far this year.
Speaking prior to practice, Hamilton said “I’ve had some ups and downs in China. On one side I’ve only finished outside of the podium places twice at this circuit. On the other, in my first season in Formula One I threw away a championship lead here by going into the gravel coming into the pits. Generally, though, I’m getting stronger every time I come to this track and it suits my driving style quite well. The aim, as always, is to win and if I could make it three in a row this weekend that would be incredible.”
Meanwhile, Paddy Lowe, Mercedes’ technical chief said: “After two consecutive one-two finishes, there’s a good atmosphere within the team. We were pleased to put on a good show in Bahrain and our confidence in the performance of the car continues to grow. We also have two highly competitive drivers in Lewis and Nico which is exactly how racing drivers should be and exactly what the fans want to see. The fans in China are always very enthusiastic, so hopefully we can give them some more entertainment this weekend.”
The time sheets from Practice 2 are shown below.
Chinese Grand Prix – Practice 2 Results
Rain in Shanghai, so an unpredictable qualifying session. The forecast for the race on Sunday is currently dry, but the wet conditions provided a challenge by mixing up the performance of the teams.
Initial drop-outs from Q1 were largely a case of ‘the usual suspects’ with the addition of Pastor Maldonado, who took no part in qualifying at all. In Q2, the main surprises were the failure to reach the top ten for both Mclaren cars, as well as Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Both Button and Bottas cited a lack of grip in interviews after qualifying, and both are hoping for a dry race. Raikkonen, in his usual expansive interview style, said things were “not good”.
The final part of qualifying saw drama with Rosberg spinning out at the last corner as he failed to make it another 1-2 on the grid for Mercedes, trying to match a stunning lap from Hamilton. As a result, he could only manage fourth, with Ricciardo impressively reaching the front row of the grid ahead of team-mate Vettel. The Williams cars both performed well in the wet conditions, something they have not managed in previous wet qualifying sessions this year. Alonso racked up the rather dubious statistic of being the Grand Prix driver who has most often qualified in fifth position in history.
So an interesting mix on the grid, but the race conditions will be key. But dry or wet, the Mercedes team look to be in a strong position, and Hamilton could rack up his first ever run of three consecutive wins tomorrow.
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