F1 2013 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton’s Shanghai challenge
PUBLISHED: 21:23 12 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:01 13 April 2013
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton battles for a front row grid position in qualifying for the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.
2013 Chinese Grand Prix stats
* Race distance: 56 laps (305.066km/189.568 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/07:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.451km/3.387 miles
* 2012 winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W03) 56 laps in 1hr 36m 26.929s (189.778km/h)
* 2012 pole: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W03) 1m 35.121s (206.301km/h)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m32.238s (212.749km/h)
The 28-year-old Mercedes AMP Petronas F1 star from Hertfordshire finished third for McLaren in last year’s race in Shanghai, as Nico Rosberg claimed victory from pole position.
The pair are now teammates in the Mercedes garage and they set the pace in the opening practice session at the Shanghai International Circuit.
They completed a total of 41 laps between them in the morning, finishing the first session with Rosberg in P1 with a time of 1m 36.717s and Hamilton in P2 with a lap of 1m 37.171s
The afternoon session focused on longer runs and race preparation with both tyre compounds. Rosberg completed 35 laps in the second session and ended the day in P4, with 2008 F1 world champion Hamilton completing 39 laps in P7. Felipe Massa went quickest for Ferrari.
Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “We’ve made a good start today [Friday] but there is a lot of work to do overnight. The car feels reasonable, although I’m still finding myself a little uncomfortable so we made a change for the afternoon session, which was a really positive step.
“I’m hoping that we can continue to improve as I spend more time in the car.”
Most teams struggled with the option tyre, suggesting pitstop strategy will play a crucial role in Sunday’s grand prix, which starts at 8am BST.
Hamilton said: “The tyres are going to be challenging this weekend, particularly the option compound.
“Our pace looked good and although I had some traffic on my quick lap, there was enough to give me a good feeling. We’ll find out in qualifying where we really are.”
Bookmakers William Hill have Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel 13/8 favourite to start at the front of the grid, with Hamilton 9/2 joint second favourite with his teammate Rosberg. Ferrari drivers Massa and Fernando Alonso are both 8/1 to qualify fastest.
Rosberg scored the Mercedes team’s first win in China last year and felt at home back on the Shanghai circuit.
He said: “It was good to be back on the track here in Shanghai where I have experienced some really good moments in my career.
“I felt very comfortable in the car and it was a productive day for us, we definitely learnt a lot. We looked good on one lap, but there is some work still to do on the longer runs.
“Tyre degradation was particularly high on the option tyre out there today [Friday]. So we need to analyse this and decide what is best to do in the race.”
Team principal Ross Brawn felt it was a decent day at the office, although tyre wear is an issue.
“We’ve had a pretty good day here in Shanghai. There were a number of items that we wanted to evaluate and the programme has gone well,” said Brawn.
“The car seems to have a good balance, the feedback from the drivers was positive, and I’m pleased with the race preparation that we have been able to complete.
“We can see where the challenges are for this weekend and tyre life is certainly going to require some attention.
“We need to do a good job tonight and then we should be able to have a reasonable final practice and qualifying session tomorrow [Saturday].”
Mercedes director Toto Wolff added: “This was a good and productive day without any problems for us. We tested quite a few things during the first session in the morning with positive results.
“As usual we ran both prime and option tyres in the afternoon and did our normal long runs. Keeping the option tyre from dropping off early is quite a big challenge.
“It’s early days and we are sure that there is more performance that we can extract from our technical package at this circuit.”
Hamilton’s former team-mate Jenson Button was sixth fastest in the two opening practice sessions in Shanghai.
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ace said: “I feel we’ll be using the prime tyre quite a lot in the race. The option tyre transforms the car completely; over one lap, there’s a lot more grip, but then you start to lose time over each successive lap.”
Sergio Perez, Hamilton’s replacement in the McLaren hotseat, added: “The target for tomorrow is to get into Q3. For Sunday, the tyres will play a big role. It’ll be essential to manage the degradation and plot the perfect strategy, but I know the team is very good in these areas, so I’m optimistic.”
Qualifying for the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix starts at 7am on Saturday.
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