McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton each topped one of the two Friday practice sessions for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix – but both drivers warned fans not to expect the same dominance in qualifying.
Hamilton, whose second session time was the fastest of the day, set his sights on making it into the top five on the grid while Button warned that the Red Bull and Ferrari cars had yet to show what they are capable of.
But the big talking-point of the day was not the relative pace of the cars – it was the extraordinary accident suffered by Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, who lost both front wheels from his car as he braked at high speed.
A rapid investigation by the team established that one of the front uprights failed, instantly placing so much strain on the other that it, too, broke. With the wheel tethers being attached to the broken components, there was nothing to stop both wheels shooting out from the car and bouncing down the track at speed – and one ended up in a spectator area.
Buemi took no further part in the day’s testing, but team-mate Jaime Algueruari was let out again for the second session and set the eighth-best time. Buemi said: “It looked quite spectacular but, from inside the car, it was not so big. Something broke – it happens.
“But I have to say I am extremely disappointed that, once again, through no fault of my own, I have been unable to run for almost all of the three hours available.”
Another driver who suffered problems – though not on anything like the same scale – was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who lost another engine from his diminishing supply.
He set no time in the first session but said: “If we break more engines then we’ll start thinking, but right now there are no worries. This engine was going to reach its end sooner or later – we knew it was dying.”
Hamilton said: “The day has been good – the car feels very nice to drive as it did in Malaysia. You’ve seen our pace in the last two races, but we’ve come from the back. We’ve come from 11th up to the front and from 20th up to the front, so ideally we’d like to get into Q3 and have a top five start tomorrow which would enable us to have a competitive run for the win.”
Button added: “We are happy with the direction we’ve taken. There’s a few more things we need to do but we are almost getting the maximum out of the car, especially on the long runs. We came here with a pretty good car anyway, so we haven’t really gone too far away from what we came here.
“I don’t think the Red Bulls have showed their hand yet. The Ferraris had a tough day and they’ve been testing lots of straight line speed packages. But the Red Bulls will be quick and they are the ones to beat.”
In the first session Button was fastest with a lap of 1min 36.677, ahead of Nico Rosberg for Mercedes, Hamilton, Rosberg’s team-mate Michael Schumacher, and Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull.
Paul di Resta, Force India’s Scottish reserve driver, replaced Vitantonio Liuzzi in the session and set the 15th-best time, 1.9 seconds off Button’s pace but only six tenths slower than more experienced team-mate Adrian Sutil.
The second session saw the McLaren drivers swap places but the top five otherwise unchanged, Hamilton best with a 1min 35.217, ahead of Rosberg, Button, Schumacher and Vettel.
Shanghai Friday practice times
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:35.217s (26 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes: 1:35.465s (22 laps)
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1:35.593s (26 laps)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes: 1:35.602s (28 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:35.791s (30 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:35.995s (29 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:36.254s (31 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:36.377s (43 laps)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:36.389s (29 laps)
- Fernando Alonso , Ferrari: 1:36.604s (33 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:36.944s (36 laps)
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1:36.986s (27 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber: 1:37.421s (32 laps)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber: 1:37.431s (33 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:37.657s (30 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:37.804s (31 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:37.867s (29 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1:39.624s (35 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1:39.947s (30 laps)
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1:40.233s (27 laps)
- Karun Chandhok, HRT: 1:41.008s (32 laps)
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1:41.107s (28 laps)
- Bruno Senna, HRT: 1:41.345s (32 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: no time (no laps)
- Jenson Button, McLaren: 1m36.677s (15 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes: 1m36.748s (17 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1m36.775s (19 laps)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes: 1m37.509s (14 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1m37.601s (20 laps)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1m37.716s (17 laps)
- Vitaly Petrov, Renault: 1m37.745s (25 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1m37.980s (17 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1m38.008s (13 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1m38.098s (19 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1m38.161s (19 laps)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber: 1m38.375s (21 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, Sauber: 1m38.421s (19 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1m38.569s (20 laps)
- Paul di Resta, Force India: 1m38.618s (26 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1m38.678s (17 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1m39.939s (5 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Lotus: 1m41.531s (22 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus: 1m41.779s (23 laps)
- Timo Glock, Virgin: 1m41.830s (20 laps)
- Lucas di Grassi, Virgin: 1m42.181s (27 laps)
- Bruno Senna, HRT: 1m43.875s (23 laps)
- Karun Chandhok, HRT: 1m43.949s (20 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Ferrari: no time (6 laps)