Shanghai Practice 3: Hamilton fastest from Button
14 April, 2012
Apr.14 (PVM) With a new gearbox bolted to his McLaren MP4-27, Lewis Hamilton ended the final free practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend at the top of the timing screens and looking strong prospect for fastest lap in qualifying as top spot on the grid is out of the question thanks to a five-place grid penalty.
The penalty appears to have Hamilton fired up, and his fastest lap in the session was typical of the 2008 world champion: controlled aggression, pushing the limits everywhere on the quicker softer Pirelli tyres. Some lock-up moments means he probably has another quarter second in hand, if he nails a hot lap without any mistakes.
The 2008 world champion is the only driver to have won the Chinese GP twice and even if he does start around sixth place on the grid, a third victory at the venue is not out of the question and a charge from the third row by Hamilton is a mouth watering prospect for F1 fans.
Second quickest was teammate Jenson Button, suggesting that the MP4-27 is pretty handy around the twists of Shanghai. Button is likely to be content with the improvement, as he appeared to struggle on the first day. With his teammate penalised before qualifying even starts, the top spot grid slot will be his to lose.
Next up were the Mercedes AMG pair with Nico Rosberg third quickest from Michael Schumacher fourth on the timing sheets – four Merc powered cars in the top four positions, although the Woking variety appear to have a quarter second edge heading into qualifying.
Fastest of the Red Bull pair was Mark Webber with the fifth fastest time, with team mate Sebastian Vettel ninth best.
Pastor Maldonado again showed that the Williams FW34 is capable of sniffing among the front runners. He was sixth fastest.
Also enjoying strong form again this weekend are the Sauber duo with Sergio Perez seventh quickest, ahead of team mate Kamui Kobaysahi – the pair 0.099 seconds apart on the timing screens. Again the Faenza based minnows, with their Ferrari power plants, outpacing the Maranello giants.
Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus finally broke into the top ten, with the Finn rounding out the top ten, with teammate Romain Grosjean 12th fastest.
Hard to believe that Ferrari actually won the last race , three weeks ago in Malaysia, as the pair language way down the order. Fernando Alonso ending the session down in 15th, 1.5 seconds down on Hamilton’s best and Massa 18th and almost two seconds off the best time, the Brazilian slower than the Ferrari powered Toro Rosso pair.
So after three sessions in China it would foolish to bet against a McLaren on pole, Hamilton for sure not but Button highly likely with Hamilton set to start from the third row.
The real focus will be on who can challenge the Woking squad with Mercedes looking strong and of course the likes of Vettel and Webber capable of digging deep and snatching a surprise. There is a sneaky suspicion in the Shanghai paddock that the Red Bull pair have some firepower to spare, yet to be unleashed. Whatever the outcome qualifying is set to be an intriguing duel. watch this space!
Free Practice 3 – Shanghai, 14 April 2012
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.635||0.695||16|
|9||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.039||1.099||15|
|11||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.237||1.297||16|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.288||1.348||16|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:41.499||5.559|