F1 2015 Chinese Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest ahead of qualifying in Shanghai

PUBLISHED: 13:07 10 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:18 10 April 2015

Lewis Hamilton on track ahead of the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton on track ahead of the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton topped the practice timesheets in Shanghai ahead of Saturday's 2015 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying session.

The 30-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire went quickest in today’s (Friday’s) practice around the Shanghai International Circuit.

Hamilton topped the times in both sessions, with Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg finishing the morning in P2 and the afternoon in P5.

The world champion’s lap times were faster in both than the equivalent practice sessions last year.

He clocked 1m39.033s in first practice and then 1m37.219s after lunch, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen his nearest rival.

"It will be an exciting battle."

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff

The opening session involved aerodynamic and setup evaluation, while the second session focused on long runs.

Afterwards Hamilton said: “Today was definitely an improvement on Friday in Malaysia.

“It was good to get both sessions in and that puts me in a stronger position.

“The team has done an amazing job to find some improvements in the car.

2015 Chinese Grand Prix: The race

* Start time: 1400 (local) / 0700 (BST).

* Race distance: 56 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance / 42 laps).

* 2014 winner: Lewis Hamilton.

* 2014 pole position: Lewis Hamilton 1m53.860s 172.348km/h (wet).

* 2014 fastest lap: Nico Rosberg 1m40.402s 195.450km/h.

* Chances of a Safety Car: Medium. There’s a 43 per cent chance of a Safety Car.

* Don’t put the kettle on: Between laps 12-17 and 34-38. The top 15 cars completed last year’s race on a two-stop strategy, with most cars electing to run the soft tyre in the first stint, followed by two stints on the medium compound.

* Weather forecast: After the heat and humidity of Malaysia, Shanghai is going to feel cool. Typically, the ambient temperature is around 18 degrees at this time of year, with a track temperature of around 22 degrees. There’s a high chance of rain because nearly half of the Chinese GPs to date have been affected by wet weather.

“Balance-wise it’s way better than the last race and it was generally feeling really good.”

Looking at tyre-wear, Hamilton said: “I don’t know how long I went on each compound but it felt good on the long and short runs.

“The prime perhaps didn’t feel as good as the option but I’ll have to go and analyse the data to see where we are compared to the others.”

As for his rivals, Hamilton added: “It was quite close between us and Ferrari.

“They look just as fast as they were last time out and Nico was quick as well, so we definitely have a race on.

“But I feel like I’ve got some improvements to make and I think we’ve got the pace to stay ahead.”

Both Mercedes drivers used the prime (medium) tyres only during P1, and then the prime and option (soft) tyres during P2.

Rosberg said: “It seems that we are very quick on one lap – but I just didn’t get my lap together on the softer tyres.

Shanghai International Circuit

The track:

* First race: 2004.

* Circuit length: 5.451km / 3.387 miles.

* Run to Turn One: 380 metres.

* Longest straight: 1.17km, on the approach to Turn 14.

* Top speed: 326km/h on the approach to Turn 14.

* DRS Zones: Two – the first on the approach to Turn 15, the second on the approach to Turn One.

* Key corner: Turn 14. The slowest corner on the track, this hairpin comes at the end of a huge 1.2km straight, and is the likeliest place from which to launch an overtaking attempt. Both the entry and exit can see some pretty frantic action.

* Pitlane length: 380 metres.

* Major changes for 2015: None.

“I tried a different line on the grass at the final corner, which was not very quick as it turns out. Obviously, that wasn’t ideal and it cost me a good lap.

“But Lewis showed the pace we have in the car. On a long run we need to analyse the data to see where we are but the Ferraris seem to be very strong again.”

Rosberg added: “In the morning I tried a new front wing and we collected a lot of data, so that was a very useful session for us.

“It will be a long night with the engineers to find the best setup for the race on Sunday.”

Mercedes-Benz Motorsport chief Toto Wolff was pleased with the Silver Arrows’ reliability, with both cars running the programme “like we planned and doing lots of laps”.

He added: “We also ran a new front wing in the morning and the correlation all looks good, so a great job done by the team back at the factory.

“Performance wise, we look competitive over one lap, although Nico didn’t quite get his lap together today.

“But Ferrari are close – and closer still on the long runs. We saw in Malaysia that we need to get every detail right to put together a winning weekend, so this will be our focus tonight as we do our analysis and tomorrow in preparation for qualifying.

“It will be an exciting battle.”

Technical director Paddy Lowe reported no problems after a successful day in China.

Lowe said: “We ran the two different types of tyre at different fuel loads and gathered a lot of useful information.

“There is a big difference between the prime and option over a single lap, which will certainly influence strategies for the rest of the weekend.

“Both drivers were pretty happy with the car today but Ferrari look to be similarly competitive here as they were in Malaysia, so we will have our work cut out once again.”

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