Williams third driver Alex Wurz kicked off the on-track proceedings for the Chinese Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time in the first Friday practice session. He set a best of 1:35.574 around the Shanghai circuit, less than two hundredths of a second quicker than Honda counterpart Anthony Davidson. Jenson Button was the top race driver, his Honda third fastest.
The track temperature was around 30 degrees at the start of the session, with the air a few degrees lower. There were a couple of new faces today, Michael Ammermuller in the third Red Bull cockpit and Alexandre Premat behind the wheel of the third Spyker MF1 car. They were quickly out on track along with the other No.3 drivers.
Franck Montagny (Super Aguri), Sebastian Vettel (BMW Sauber), Davidson, Neel Jani (Toro Rosso) and Wurz went out, and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Sakon Yamamoto. Sato already has a ten place grid demotion penalty as the team decided to change his engine prior to this weekend as a precautionary measure.
Wurz clocked 1:1:40.190 to start and Davidson slotted into second. The BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica appeared for an installation lap, while Wurz and Davidson were the only ones putting in times, 1:38.322 by Wurz eight tenths up on the Honda. Premat posted third and Yamamoto fourth, then Davidson lowered the gap to Wurz to two tenths.
Vettel clocked third on his first flyer but was immediately demoted by Jani, who in turn lost the place to Ammermuller. Kimi Raikkonen was the first McLaren to venture out on track, while Jani and Ammermuller swapped places again, and Montagny made it eight on the time sheet after 15 minutes. Vettel moved ahead of Ammermuller for fourth then improved again to take third from Jani.
Jani promptly took the position back but Vettel lowered his time again and reclaimed it, their little battle the only thing of interest happening on track for a while. Davidson reappeared and clocked 1:37.404 for the top, just over nine tenths up on Wurz, and Sato finally set a time after half an hour, fifth. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso made a brief appearance, followed by teammate Tonio Liuzzi but they didn't hang around.
Vettel improved to second, sixth tenths off Davidson, and the Spyker MF1s of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers went out for a trip around the track. Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher joined them, while Premat moved up to second, four tenths down on Davidson. Presumably not happy to be demoted to fourth, Wurz returned with a 1:36.678 to go seven tenths up.
Ammermuller improved a couple of places to sixth after being moved down the short list and Davidson fired off a 1:36.270 for four tenths quicker than Wurz. In the final 10 minutes Speed went back out and posted 10th and the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Button also took to the track. Speed gained one place to ninth and Montagny did likewise to sixth.
Button and Barrichello clocked seventh and eighth respectively and Wurz put in a 1:35.574 for the top. Liuzzi managed 11th, Albers and Monteiro 13th and 15th, while Michael Schumacher's Ferrari and the Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Robert Doornbos were late appearances. Michael slotted into fourth and Button went one better for third, while Davidson closed the gap to Wurz to less than a tenth.
Kubica put in a last gasp effort for seventh and Jani improved to fifth but it was time up. Not a very interesting Friday morning, as usual, Button being the fastest race driver, 1.7 off the pace of Wurz and Michael a further four tenths behind. Final top eight classification: Wurz, Davidson, Button, M. Schumacher, Jani, Premat, Vettel, Kubica.