Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was not to be beaten in Friday practices for the Chinese Grand Prix, recording the fastest times in both sessions. His 1:36.607 set right at the end of the afternoon practice was four tenths up on his best of the morning,...
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was not to be beaten in Friday practices for the Chinese Grand Prix, recording the fastest times in both sessions. His 1:36.607 set right at the end of the afternoon practice was four tenths up on his best of the morning, while teammate Felipe Massa was again third and just a couple of hundredths behind the Finn.
"A good day, even if the Friday results have to be considered for what they are, given that we do not know what our main rivals are up to," said Raikkonen. "The car quickly proved to be well balanced, but there is still room to improve the handling. The track was very slippery, but luckily, there are plenty of escape roads that any mistakes don't cost a driver anything."
Massa said the track was very dirty but he was satisfied with his day. "We are all very close, given that both in the morning and in the afternoon, the first four in the order were all within around two tenths," he commented. "I am happy with the first day of free practice and I hope to continue in the same way for the rest of the weekend. We worked a lot on set-up and I think we are on the right track."
In the very narrow gap between the two Ferraris was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, who had spent much of the session at the top until Raikkonen's late charge. The Spaniard was just six thousandths off the lead scarlet car. Lewis Hamilton completed the quartet of usual suspects at the front in fourth, two and a half tenths down on Raikkonen.
"A very close practice session, with no problems throughout," said Alonso. "As usual we worked on our set-up in the morning and made some good progress there, and then in the afternoon we concentrated on the tyre comparison. It is good to be back in China as I like this circuit. I expect it should be a very interesting weekend with the top four cars being very competitive here."
Toyota's Jarno Trulli was a respectable fifth, just over half a second off the pace, and Ralf Schumacher, the last to be within a second of the top time, wasn't far behind in seventh. Mark Webber's Red Bull separated them in sixth and teammate David Coulthard followed behind Schumacher in eighth, just fractionally over the one second gap.
Nico Rosberg was also only a small margin over the one second mark, his Williams ninth. After team tester Kazuki Nakajima took the wheel in the morning, Alex Wurz was back on duty and was 16th, nearly a second off Rosberg. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella completed the top 10 and Heikki Kovalainen was one behind in 11th; the Finn was hampered by a fuel pressure problem but managed to continue.
The Hondas moved up slightly from the morning session, Jenson Button 12th and Rubens Barrichello 13th with just a tenth between them. BMW Sauber had a less than smooth afternoon; Robert Kubica was 14th and Nick Heidfeld again had problems and lost track time. Twice the gearbox in his car needed changed today and he finished 15th.
Anthony Davidson was the lead Super Aguri in 17th, he and those behind all over two seconds off Raikkonen's pace, and Takuma Sato was 20th. Tonio Liuzzi put his Toro Rosso 18th, while Sebastian Vettel was a couple of places behind in 20th. Spyker's Adrian Sutil improved a little from the morning and was 19th and Sakon Yamamoto rounded off the list in 22nd.
There were several off track excursions and spins, even the top four not immune to a wobbly moment or two, but only minor incidents. It's very close at the top; Raikkonen just had the edge today but he won't have an easy job to stay ahead. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Trulli, Webber, Schumacher, Coulthard.