Grandstand seating at Shanghai's international circuit

Grandstand seating at Shanghai's international circuit, photo by HKmPUA

From Friday Free Practice for the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, looking mainly at free practice two as free practice one was rain affected, there are a lot of interesting hints at form to consider.


It seems to be we can now conclude that in qualifying trim Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull are the fastest teams and probably in that order, we can also tell that McLaren have good race pace, for both drivers.


After those front three teams there are another three teams, or two and a half, close together with the Force Indias, Saubers and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari looking close together, Massa seems to be struggling again, more of a inidication of how Alonso can get the most out of a difficult car perhaps though?


What also seems to be the case is that Williams and Lotus may not be as fast as we had though before, this may not be the case or it may be now we are seeing the cars not on a street circuit and not in rain affected sessions we are getting a better idea of where everyone is.


The order could change again in the race of course still and could certianly change after the Mugello test at Barcelona for the first European race of the season.


Now to talk more about drivers than cars, Hamilton of course has a five place penalty but has made comments suggesting that he relishes the challenge and will perhaps feel less pressure than starting on pole. Button looks set to challenge him in qualifying though he hasn’t shown what he can do on a clear fast lap.


Vettel and Webber look close as well, though they will have different exhaust systems in China; if the Red Bulls can catch up with the McLaren’s pace early enough this season a four way battle is possible perhaps. In the Chinese Grand Prix though what we are likely to see is perhaps Button leading from the front with Hamilton battling to get past the two Red Bulls and maybe initially the Mercedes from 6th or maybe 7th place assuming he gets a top two position in qualifying before his penalty.


Of course what seems most likely to happen often doesn’t happen, it certianly didn’t in Malaysia and it could rain at the Shangahi circuit on Sunday to throw things up in the air again.


So another team of well matched drivers, the Force Indias may well be fighting for points with the Williams of Senna and Maldonado, though it is unclear which of them is looking best yet in 2012, as well as the Ferrari of Fernado Alonso. Felipe Massa seems to have made very little progress since Malaysia and things could get very tough for him if he doesn’t at least score points in China.


As for the new teams the Caterhams have a new floor and Kovalainen was only two tenths away from Senna so perhaps a little closer, Senna was a half second behind Massa though. Still any step forward for Caterham is good and it suggests there may be potential in their car they still need to extract and that their car despite its early launch is still having parts developed that other teams would develop more intensively before the start of the season, meaning they have more to gain than other teams perhaps.


As for Marussia and HRT they look to be at a simialr pace, at least meaning that they can battle with each other making the season a little more entertianing for them, Caterham though may find themselves untorubled by Marussia and HRT yet unable to bother any mid field teams.