Ferrari prancing around once again but Hamilton still ahead
Mercedes set the fastest practice times again at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, though rivals Ferrari and Red Bull may have closed the gap somewhat on Formula One’s runaway leader.other Updated: Apr 19, 2014 01:21 IST
Mercedes set the fastest practice times again at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, though rivals Ferrari and Red Bull may have closed the gap somewhat on Formula One’s runaway leader.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, winner of the past two F1 races, was quickest around the Shanghai International Circuit in the afternoon session after a suspension problem limited him to only nine laps in the morning session.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, however, was just 0.141 seconds behind Hamilton under the watch of new team principal Marco Mattiacci, who arrived in Shanghai to take charge following Stefano Domenicali’s abrupt departure this week.
Alonso also set the quickest time during the morning practice.
Hamilton was delayed in the garage for a half hour in the afternoon session while his crew tried to resolve the suspension trouble.
“It’s great to be still up front even though we have those issues,” he said. “But, still, you want to get the car ready, you want to get the long runs feeling a little better, so there’s some work to do.”
Teammate Nico Rosberg had the third-fastest practice time, about 0.4 seconds behind Hamilton. He said Mercedes still expects to win the race on Sunday, even if its rivals performed well in practice.
“We’re still looking pretty decent at the moment,” he said. “The competitors are pushing - today, Ferrari was very close.”
Alonso back in form
Alonso, the defending Chinese GP champion, kept pace with them in the cool conditions of Shanghai, indicating his struggling team may just emerge as a challenger on Sunday.
Ferrari has lagged behind Mercedes following the series’ switch to V6 turbo hybrid engines, and new fuel-saving regulations. The slow start prompted Ferrari to part ways with Domenicali after six years, replacing him with Mattiacci, formerly president of Ferrari North America.
Red Bull also kept up the pace on Friday, with Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Ricciardo said, however, he believes Mercedes may have been holding back during practice.
“We have to see where they are tomorrow. The gap seems a bit too close for now,” he said. “I would like to say we’ve caught up but they’ve got a bit more in there.”
He was pleased with Red Bull’s improvement since Bahrain, where both drivers finished off the podium.