2014 Chinese GP Practice Two: Lewis Hamilton fastest from Fernando Alonso
Merc driver top despite poor handling; Spaniard's second place suggests Ferrari improvement; Rosberg P3 ahead of Red Bulls; Maldonado crashes entering pit lane
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 18/04/14 9:26pm
The day's fastest time suggests that it was business as usual for Hamilton, chasing his third straight win this weekend and who lapped the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit in a time of 1:38.315s, 0.141s quicker than the Spaniard's best.
However, Hamilton never sounded comfortable in his Mercedes, reporting a handling imbalance and that his W05 "didn't feel right".
Furthermore, both he and team-mate Nico Rosberg, who was third fastest, reported significant tyre wear during their long runs towards the end of the 90-minute session.
"[I've not learnt] much. It's not been the easiest of days," Hamilton told Sky Sports afterwards. "This evening we have got to do some work to figure out where we are. Obviously we are not that bad, but you always want to be better and we will work hard tonight to find some improvements on set-up.
The 2008 World Champion, three times a winner in China, suffered a suspension problem earlier in the day and was late out on track during the afternoon.
"The [suspension] problem put us on the backfoot because you don't have many laps as it is and so every lap counts. But we will fix whatever problem we had and be quick tomorrow."
Mercedes have won every race so far this season and still appear favourites this weekend. But Friday's evidence suggests the Silver Arrows won't be quite so dominant as they were, for example, in the Middle East.
For a start, Ferrari appear much-improved this weekend than was the case in Bahrain, where Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen struggled to finish in the points.
The F14 T appears much better suited to the Shanghai track, which places much less emphasis on rear traction than Sakhir, allowing Alonso in particular to put the car through its paces.
With new Team Principal Marco Mattiacci looking on, Alonso went fastest of all in the opening session, with Kimi Raikkonen ending the day P7 - the Finn albeit 0.8s off his team-mate's pace after missing most of the opening session.
Ferrari appear to be vying with Red Bull for 'best of the rest' with Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel fourth and fifth respectively - the World Champions also looking more comfortable than Mercedes in terms of tyre wear.
The top ten was completed by Felipe Massa (Williams), with Jenson Button (McLaren) eighth ahead of Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso).
Grosjean's position in the top ten suggests that Lotus are making headway with their E22. Yet their cause was hardly helped by team-mate Pastor Maldonado, who produced another haphazard display by crashing out.
The Venezuelan, who is racing with a grid penalty this weekend after a spectacular collision with Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber in Bahrain, lost control entering the pit lane.
Maldonado's car suffered damage to its nose and suspension in the impact, with the reaction of Lotus mechanics suggesting that his wild reputation has also taken another hit.