Shanghai: Kimi Raikkonen went fastest on the opening day of practice for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, after the Ferrari team-mates knocked their Mercedes rivals off the top of the timesheets.
Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen on track during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai yesterday. PIC/Getty Images
World championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had topped yesterday morning’s opening session for world champions Mercedes and led for much of the way in the afternoon.
But Raikkonen jumped to the top of the order with a one minute 36.896 second lap, a tenth up on Vettel’s best, as Ferrari emerged as the quickest on the fastest supersoft compound tyre.
Rosberg, winner of the opening two races of the season who leads the championship by 17 points, was third 0.237 seconds off the pace.
Hamilton, who heads into the weekend with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, was fourth, 0.433 seconds adrift.
Pre-season hype had tipped Ferrari to challenge Mercedes’ two-year dominance and the Maranello-based squad desperately needs a trouble free weekend if it is to live up to that promise after enduring a spate of reliability woes in the opening two races.
But despite Ferrari’s session-topping effort, Mercedes remain the team to beat going to qualifying.
The German marque has won 34 of the last 40 races and started the last eight from pole.
Rosberg, very much the man in form, arrives at the scene of his maiden grand prix triumph gunning for his sixth successive win.
Hamilton, meanwhile, who has the most victories of anyone in China, is aiming for a hat-trick of Chinese Grand Prix triumphs, even if he will have his work cut out as the highest he can start the race from is sixth.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo ended the day fifth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Verstappen’s team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Sergio Perez in the second Force India and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.
Fernando Alonso, who finally was cleared to race following further medical tests after the morning session, beat McLaren team-mate Jenson Button to the eleventh-fastest time.
The Spaniard, who fractured his ribs in a crash in the season-opener in Australia and was forced to sit out the last race in Bahrain, admitted to feeling a little bit of pain in the car but nevertheless completed a total of 42 laps.
Yesterday morning’s opening session was headlined by tyre failures for Williams’ Felipe Massa and Renault’s Kevin Magnussen which prompted two red-flag stoppages.
However, tyre supplier Pirelli after an investigation ruled out the failures were tyre related. Problems for Massa, who suffered a similar failure later in the session, were found to have been caused by a wheel-rim failure. A broken suspension was responsible for Magnussen’s tyre letting go.