Apr 122013

SHANGHAI: Ferrari’s Felipe Massa edged out Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus to set the best time in yesterday’s second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, with Massa’s teammate Fernando Alonso third quickest.

A rejuvenated Massa set the pace going into qualifying today with a best lap time of one minute 35.340 seconds, just 0.152sec faster than the Finn, Raikkonen, who won the first race of the season in Melbourne.

In dry but hazy conditions, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, winner of the Chinese Grand Prix last year and fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, clocked the fourth-best time in the afternoon session.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber shrugged off his feud with teammate Sebastian Vettel, the world champion, to record the fifth-best time. Vettel, controversial winner in Malaysia last month, was only 10th fastest.

The German, who defied team orders in Sepang to take Webber’s lead and win the race, was 1.451sec off Brazilian pace-setter Massa.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner batted away the suggestion the furore surrounding Vettel had hurt his performance.

“We’ve seen many times that the free-practice times are meaningless,” said Horner.

An upbeat Massa, who had been in danger of losing his spot at Ferrari before a late surge at the end of last season, said, “Our race pace looks competitive.

“The car is handling well on both types of tyre and degradation was not excessive. I feel confident and hope that the whole weekend can keep moving in this direction.”

Jenson Button was sixth-quickest in his McLaren, while his former teammate Lewis Hamilton, second-fastest in his new Mercedes, struggled to seventh place.

The Force India of Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta were eighth and ninth, while McLaren’s Sergio Perez, who crashed in the pit entry after the chequered flag in the first practice, was 11th, with Raikkonen’s Lotus stablemate Romain Grosjean 12th.

The Chinese Grand Prix, the third race of the new season, is tomorrow.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2013.

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