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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2015After Ferrari scored a shock victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, Mercedes’ fight-back against the Scuderia began today with the two Friday practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in both sessions, with Nico Rosberg taking second in FP1 but 5th in FP2.

Hamilton’s advantage in the first session was evident, as he was half a second ahead of team-mate Rosberg in 2nd place. The team’s nearest rivals Ferrari couldn’t get within a second of Hamilton; with 3rd placed Vettel 1.1 seconds down on Lewis. Vettel’s team-mate Raikkonen was a further half a second down on Sebastian in P4.

Sauber has shown reasonable pace at the season opening round 4 weeks ago in Australia, with both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson scoring points. This pace seemed to dissipate in Malaysia but the team look slightly stronger in Shanghai, with Nasr 5th in first practice. Ericsson could only manage 14th out of 20 runners.

The two Red Bull cars struggled in Malaysia with brake problems, but the team announced in the last week that they will switch back to the supplier Brembo that the team had used last year. Ricciardo was 6th fastest and was 1.9 seconds down on P1, with team-mate Kvyat just behind in 7th by a few hundredths of a second. Junior team driver Carlos Sainz was just behind his fellow Red Bull-sponsored drivers in 8th place for Toro Rosso; despite complaining of a lack of speed on the famous back-straight.

The two Williams drivers completed the top 10 in practice, with Valtteri Bottas just ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who had suffered a spin at turn 14 during the session. Lotus third driver Jolyon Palmer made his first appearance in a Grand Prix weekend as he commandeered Romain Grosjean’s car for the session. He finished in 15th place and was just 6 tenths off of Pastor Maldonado’s fastest lap in the sister car.

Friday practice one results:

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’39.03321
2Nico RosbergMercedes1’39.57421
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’40.15718
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’40.66127
5Felipe NasrSauber1’41.01218
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’41.02921
7Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’41.09724
8Carlos SainzToro Rosso1’41.11223
9Valtteri BottasWilliams1’41.30323
10Felipe MassaWilliams1’41.30417
11Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’41.33523
12Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’41.57528
13Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’41.84519
14Marcus EricssonSauber1’41.91824
15Jolyon PalmerLotus1’41.96725
16Sergio PerezForce India1’42.14122
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’42.16120
18Nico HulkenbergForce India1’42.18419
19Will StevensManor1’45.37918
20Roberto MerhiManor1’46.44320

Embedded image permalinkLewis Hamilton continued to hold the top-spot in the second 90-minute session in Shanghai; but the Silver Arrows’ rivals appeared to have made gains in the gap between sessions. Hamilton bettered his FP1 time by 1.8 seconds to set a 1’37.2; but his nearest rival was now within half a second of him. What made matters worse is that it wasn’t his team-mate, it was Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. The Finn was 4 tenths down on Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and the second Ferrari of Vettel continuing to the two Mercedes team-mates apart. Rosberg finished the session down in 5th place, with exactly the same time as Vettel, and was 1.1 seconds off of Hamilton. Perhaps what is more interesting is that Mercedes seemed to be fastest on the soft tyre, but Ferrari were even with them on the longer-runs on the medium compound.

Daniil Kvyat managed to be 6th fastest in the second session, but similar problems to those he experienced in Sepang seemed to return; with the Russian’s Red Bull starting to smoke after a pit-stop. Valtteri Bottas was 7th fastest for Williams, with team-mate Massa failing to make the top 10 after losing control of his car under-braking; which put the Brazilian’s car in the wall slightly. This caused the one and only red flag.

Felipe Nasr continued to show reasonable pace for Sauber in 8th place, with Romain Grosjean just behind for Lotus in 9th place. Jenson Button was 10th fastest for McLaren; an impressive feat considering the team’s recent struggles to get to grips with the new Honda power-unit. He was 2 seconds down on former team-mate Hamilton’s time.

One of the stranger moments of the session occurred when a spectator appeared to run across the track on the start/finish straight. The spectator ran from the grand-stand side of the circuit toward the pit-wall. The session was surprisingly uninterrupted.

Friday practice two results:

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’37.21932
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’37.66235
3Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’38.31124
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’38.33930
5Nico RosbergMercedes1’38.39935
6Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’38.73710
7Valtteri BottasWilliams1’38.85027
8Felipe NasrSauber1’39.03226
9Romain GrosjeanLotus1’39.14232
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’39.27529
11Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’39.44430
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’39.74327
13Marcus EricssonSauber1’39.75133
14Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’39.89432
15Carlos SainzToro Rosso1’39.97128
16Nico HulkenbergForce India1’40.15128
17Felipe MassaWilliams1’40.4237
18Sergio PerezForce India1’40.86824
19Roberto MerhiManor1’42.97327
20Will StevensManor1’44.5648

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