F1: Felipe Massa delivers 'incredible' pace during practice for Chinese Grand Prix
Ferrari driver out paces team-mate Fernando Alonso
Friday 12 April 2013
Felipe Massa delivered “incredible” pace to tee himself up for a first over Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso.
At no time throughout Alonso's 200-race Formula One career has the double world champion been out-qualified by a team-mate for five successive races.
But Massa, who just under a year ago appeared to be on his way out of F1 after a miserable start to last season, has every chance of doing just that to Alonso tomorrow.
Massa, whose form skyrocketed after last season's August break, beat Alonso over one lap in the final two races of last season, repeating the feat for the opening two grands prix of this campaign.
In second practice ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, an in-form Massa emerged quickest at the Shanghai International Circuit to beat Alonso into third place on the timesheet by 0.415secs.
Massa set a best time of one minute 35.340secs, and during a long run late in the second 90-minute session was told by engineer Rob Smedley his pace was "not just very good, but incredible".
Come the conclusion, the Ferrari duo sandwiched Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen in second, the Finn finishing 0.152secs adrift of Brazilian Massa.
As for Mercedes, who were one-two at the end of FP1 with Nico Rosberg ahead of Lewis Hamilton, the duo had to settle for fourth and seventh in FP2.
Both remarked of high degradation with the soft Pirelli tyres - a trend across most cars - leaving Rosberg, who gave Mercedes their only win in three years here last season, nearly half a second down on Massa.
As for Hamilton, who complained bitterly at one point about his tyres falling away, the 27-year-old Briton finished 1.156secs adrift.
Splitting the Mercedes pairing were Mark Webber in his Red Bull, with the Australian three quarters of a second off the pace, and McLaren's Jenson Button who was a second down.
The Woking-based marque have worked tirelessly over the past two weeks to rectify the faults on a car that started abysmally off the pace in Australia, and to a lesser extent in Malaysia.
Sporting a new exhaust and sidepods, along with many other bits of bodywork, McLaren appear to be closing the gap on their rivals.
For team-mate Sergio Perez, though, both sessions were ones to forget as he ended FP1 by breaking the front wing with a run across the gravel at the entrance to the pit lane.
Whilst just 15 minutes into FP2 he spun his car, again through a gravel trap, before damaging the rear wing against a tyre wall.
The Mexican eventually finished 11th quickest, just behind Red Bull's three-times world champion Sebastian Vettel who had Force India duo Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta ahead of him in eighth and ninth.
Di Resta finished 1.255secs behind Massa, and only 0.081secs behind Sutil as the Silverstone-based marque again appear strong.
Sadly for Marussia's Max Chilton, the young Briton suffered an oil pressure problem that twice ground him to a halt out on track.
Chilton had only completed four laps when the issue first appeared, and although the team retrieved the car and got him back out, he was quickly told to pull over again with a repeat of the concern.
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