Hamilton tops first practice in Shanghai13/04/2012 - 07:23:17
Lewis Hamilton left it until the last possible moment to post the quickest lap in first practice for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
On a damp and grey Shanghai morning, with temperatures no higher than 14 degrees centigrade, Hamilton spent most of the 90 minutes observing proceedings from the McLaren garage, along with team-mate Jenson Button.
Overnight rain forced a slow start before the majority of the drivers finally made their way out on to the circuit, initially on the intermediate Pirelli tyres to cope with the conditions.
By not venturing out until late on, however, both Hamilton and Button have saved a set of inters ahead of the weekend, which could prove valuable given the weather is forecast as changeable.
It was not until the closing stages that Hamilton took advantage of a dry line around the Shanghai International Circuit, and on a medium set of dry tyres.
With his first quick lap the 27-year-old deposed Red Bull’s Mark Webber from the top of the timesheet, and although Nico Rosberg briefly took over in his Mercedes, Hamilton then blitzed it with his subsequent fast lap.
In posting a time of one minute 37.106seconds, Hamilton finished 1.010secs quicker than Rosberg, albeit 3.4secs slower than Sebastian Vettel’s pole lap of last year.
Rosberg’s team-mate, seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, was 0.2secs down on his fellow German, with the duo followed by the Saubers of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi.
Webber ultimately finished 1.871secs adrift of Hamilton, who this weekend faces a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
The issue was discovered earlier this week, with the team opting to run the old gearbox today ahead of changing it for tomorrow ahead of qualifying.
The remainder of the field, spearheaded by reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel in seventh, were all at least two seconds down.
That included Button who was only a thousandth of a second behind Vettel, but 2.093secs off of Hamilton, with the Toro Rosso pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne completing the top 10, but with both 2.6secs off the pace.
They were followed by the Ferraris of championship leader Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa nearly three seconds back.
Three reserve drivers in Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Giedo van der Garde at Caterham and Force India’s Jules Bianci were all given a run out, finishing 13th, 19th and 20th respectively.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, who struggled with a rear-wing issue, was left at the back of the field, the Finn 13.3secs down.
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