Once Felipe Massa took over the top of the timesheets during the afternoon FIA Formula One practice, he kept the pace and took the checkered flag with his best lap at 1:35.340. The Ferrari driver from Brazil again proved he is a contender for this year’s crown; especially with his consistency on Friday’s first test for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“Today, I immediately had a good feeling in the car," said Massa.

Massa was on the soft Pirelli tyres when he took over the number one spot and while others tried to match his speed, he maintained his consistency. He compared the Pirelli compounds by saying, "I was not completely happy with the performance of the Medium compound and we were not as quick as our rivals. When I fitted the Softs, the car improved a lot and this meant I was able to set the fastest time of the day. It was impressive, like driving two completely different cars."

In the morning session, it was Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg who set the early pace on in Shanghai. However his best lap in the later session of 1:35.819 placed him fourth; 0.479 of a second off the pace of the Brazilian.

"We looked good on one lap, but there is some work still to do on the longer runs," said Rosberg who added, "Tyre degradation was particularly high on the option tyre out there today. So we need to analyse this and decide what is best to do in the race."

we’re certainly not struggling so it could be a good weekend.

Kimi Raikkonen

The racer that came the closest to Massa’s hot lap was Kimi Raikkonen who was just shy of the Brazilian by 0.152 seconds. The Finn’s best lap in his Lotus Renault was a 1:35.492. The Finn was pleased with the soft tyres but like his rivals, he was not happy with the hard tyres.

“If you look at the lap time it looks to have been a pretty okay day. For sure there are things we have to improve and you never know what will happen tomorrow but it’s a reasonable start to the weekend. We seem to be happy with the soft tyres and maybe not as happy with the harder ones. We’ve still got time to improve and we’re certainly not struggling so it could be a good weekend," commented Raikkonen.

More than four-tenths of a second slower than his Ferrari teammate, Fernando Alonso’s best lap of 1:35.755 netted him with the third best lap time. "Once again, tyres will play a key role in this Grand Prix because of the high level of degradation over a long run. We will have to ensure we pick the right strategy for Sunday," said the Spaniard.

For the Red Bull Renault team, it was the Australian who was fastest. Mark Webber ended the day with the fifth best lap time at 1:36.092 while Sebastian Vettel was down the speed chart in 10th with a 1:36.791.

McLaren-Mercedes’ Jenson Button placed sixth with his best lap of 1:36.432. Over the past two weeks, the team has been busy with upgrades to the 2013 car and Button commented: "...the car does feel a little bit better. We’ve worked very hard over the last few weeks to bring the new parts here – which is great. Today’s been all about putting mileage on those parts; now we need to sit down and look at the data this evening – there’s a lot to look through."

Sergio Perez, McLaren MP4-28 crashed at the pit entrance at the end of the first practice session
Sergio Perez, McLaren MP4-28 crashed at the pit entrance at the end of the first practice session

Photo by: XPB Images

However his young teammate Sergio Perez was lucky to earlier in the morning practice when he ended up into a tyre barrier after the checkered flag on his return to the pits. "The main problem was that the tyres were quite worn out and he had done a slow sector so the front tyre temperatures had dropped significantly and he just lost a lot of grip," said Sam Michael. Perez ended the afternoon session with the 11th best time.

While Rosberg was able to stay in touch with Massa, Lewis Hamilton who was showing the speed earlier in his Mercedes was off the pace of Massa by 1.156 for the seventh best lap time. Hamilton said, "The car feels reasonable although I'm still finding myself a little uncomfortable so we made a change for the afternoon session which was a really positive step."

The two Force India drivers placed in the top 10 with Adrian Sutil in eighth; just a tad faster than Paul di Resta. "In terms of the tyres there is a big difference between the compounds, with the medium performing better than the soft," said Sutil. "I think we look quite competitive, but it’s too early to say exactly where we stand.”