Massa sets pace in Chinese practice
Ferrari's Felipe Massa set an 'incredible' pace to top the timesheets at the end of Chinese Grand Prix practice on Friday after Nico Rosberg had led a Mercedes one-two in the morning session.
"In terms of everybody else on the tyre, the pace is not good, it's incredible," declared the Brazilian's race engineer Rob Smedley after Massa set a quickest time of one minute 35.340 on the soft Pirelli tyre being used for the first time this season.
Kimi Raikkonen, winner of Formula One's Melbourne season-opener in March, was second fastest for Lotus in 1:35.492 at the circuit outside Shanghai.
"When I fitted the softs, the car improved a lot... it was impressive, like driving two completely different cars," said Massa, who has out-qualified teammate Fernando Alonso in the last four races.
"Our race pace looks competitive, the car is handling well on both types of tyre and degradation was not excessive, even if the higher wear rate of the soft compared to the medium compound will be an important factor when it comes to choosing the right strategy."
Last year's winner Rosberg had lapped in 1:36.717 before lunch, with 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton 0.454 slower. Teams focused largely on longer runs in the afternoon.
The German has led the race in Shanghai in the past three editions while his 2012 win at the monumental circuit was the first of his Formula One career.
Hamilton, third in Malaysia last month after Rosberg was ordered not to overtake because of concerns the cars might run out of fuel, is the only driver to have won twice in China.
"I felt very comfortable in the car and it was a productive day for us, we definitely learnt a lot," Rosberg said.
"We looked good on one lap, but there is some work still to do on the longer runs. Tyre degradation was particularly high on the option tyre out there today."
Red Bull's Mark Webber, whose working relationship with world champion Sebastian Vettel hit a new low after a team orders storm in Malaysia, ended both sessions ahead of the German.
Webber was third and fifth respectively while Vettel was fourth and 10th.
"It was a tricky day for us. I seemed to struggle a little bit more this afternoon; the gap to the guys at the top is a bit bigger than I would like," Vettel said.
"But we have two or three things to work on and we should be in better shape tomorrow. It's not a disaster."
Alonso lapped fifth in the morning and third in the afternoon, but with a car in a different specification to Massa's, while McLaren's Jenson Button was sixth in both.
"We can't yet conclusively tell if the upgrades we brought to this race have improved the car. They're perhaps not as big a step forward as we'd expected. The issues with the car are still there - but the car does feel a little bit better," Button said.
Triple champion Vettel leads the championship after two races with 40 points, nine clear of Raikkonen.
China's Ma Qing Hua, in the Caterham that will be raced by Frenchman Charles Pic on Sunday, wrote a foootnote in Formula One history by becoming the first Chinese driver to take part in a grand prix weekend on Chinese soil.
He was last of the 22 drivers on track in the morning, 6.828 seconds slower than Rosberg, with both Caterhams lagging rivals Marussia at the tail end.
Button's Mexican teammate Sergio Perez damaged the front wing of his McLaren when he skidded off into the gravel at the pitlane entry at the end of the session. The team said they had plenty of spares.
"The main problem is that the tyres were quite worn out and he'd done a slow sector so the front tyre temperatures dropped significantly, so he just lost a lot of grip," sporting director Sam Michael said.
FIRST FREE PRACTICE SESSION
1. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1:36.717
2. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:37.171
3. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:37.658
4. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1:37.942
5. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:37.965
6. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:38.069
7. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:38.095
8. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1:38.125
9. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1:38.398
10. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 1:38.561
11. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1:38.790
12. Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:39.057
13. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1:39.158
14. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1:39.180
15. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:39.336
16. Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1:39.360
17. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1:39.392
18. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1:40.032
19. Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1:41.966
20. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 1:42.056
21. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 1:42.083
22. Ma Qinghua (China) Caterham - Renault 1:43.545
SECOND FREE PRACTICE SESSION
1. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1:35.340
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1:35.492
3. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1:35.755
4. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1:35.819
5. Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1:36.092
6. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:36.432
7. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:36.496
8. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1:36.514
9. Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 1:36.595
10. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1:36.791
11. Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren 1:36.940
12. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1:36.963
13. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1:37.103
14. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:37.206
15. Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Ferrari 1:38.127
16. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault 1:38.185
17. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1:38.211
18. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - Renault 1:38.276
19. Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Cosworth 1:38.725
20. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault 1:39.271
21. Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault 1:39.814
22. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth 1:43.227