- Chinese Grand Prix - FP2
Vettel leads the way in ChinaLaurence Edmondson April 15, 2011
Heidfeld takes blame for crashes
McLaren within striking distance of Red Bull - Button
McLaren still short of full potential - Hamilton
Mercedes takes 'small step forward'
Vettel gearing up for 'tight' weekend
- Chinese Grand Prix
- FIA Formula One World Championship
- Sebastian Vettel
- Red Bull
Just five days after taking victory in Malaysia, Sebastian Vettel showed no signs of slowing as he topped both Friday practice sessions for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
For the third race in a row the No.1 Red Bull looks like the car to beat, although Lewis Hamilton is within striking distance after lapping his McLaren just 0.166 seconds slower. Jenson Button in the second McLaren was 0.247 seconds off Vettel and appeared to be giving his Pirellis an easier time than Hamilton, which could be crucial over the course of qualifying and the race.
The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher found a turn of pace to end up fourth and fifth by the end of the day's running. They both clocked times within 0.5 seconds of Vettel as their team aims to rediscover the form it showed towards the end of pre-season testing.
Meanwhile, Ferrari's 2011 struggle continued with Felipe Massa 0.819 seconds off the pace, although he did swap to soft tyres earlier than his rivals when track conditions were marginally worse. A hydraulics problem restricted Fernando Alonso to just 17 laps, his best only good enough for 14th place, although he was hampered by traffic.
Another driver off the pace was Mark Webber, who was a comfortable second in the first session but only improved by 0.027 seconds in the afternoon to set the tenth fastest time. Red Bull had KERS issues in FP1 and spent most of the second session on heavy fuel, completing 67 laps between the two cars.
Ahead of Webber in seventh, eighth and ninth were the Force India of Adrian Sutil and the two Renaults of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov. Heidfeld made mistakes in both sessions, totting up an expensive front-wing repair bill for the team. On the plus side he made it back to the pits after his second mistake, pushing his car back to the garage via one of the circuit's cut-throughs to ensure he got as much mileage as possible.
A tight battle between Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso is shaping up in the midfield with the three teams' drivers occupying places between 11th and 17th, only split by Alonso's Ferrari. Lotus is just about hanging on to the back of that fight, with Heikki Kovalainen roughly 0.5 seconds off Sergio Perez.
A further couple of seconds adrift, both HRTs were faster than the Virgins as they look to move off the back of the grid this weekend. Paul di Resta was at the very bottom of the time sheets after a fuel pressure problem prevented him from setting a time.
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1