Hosted at the Shanghai International Circuit, another of the Hermann Tilke-designed race tracks, the Chinese Grand Prix is often marred by wet weather and after practice today it looks like 2012's race will be no different.
The 3.4-mile circuit has a nice combination of slow and medium speed corners though it’s also very aggressive on the tires.
Pirelli has brought its medium (white band) and soft (yellow band) tires as the prime and option, respectively. Whilst having one of the highest maximum speeds of any circuit, overall brake severity is low to medium and most other performance metrics are of a medium severity. The loss through the pit lane is high and the chance of a safety car is quite high too, with typically one per race.
During practice today, Mercedes AMG driver Michael Schumacher was the fastest, just edging out McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel who were second and third fastest, respectively. Despite some patches of rain, Schumacher managed a lap time of 1:35.973. Note, Hamilton will be incurring a five-place grid penalty come race day for a new gearbox.
The fastest of the Ferrari drivers was Malaysian Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso, who rounded out the top 10 during practice with his fastest time of 1:37.316.
Going into qualifying tomorrow and Sunday’s eventual race, Alonso leads the points table with his tally of 35 points, followed by Hamilton on 30 and McLaren’s other driver Jenson Button on 25 points. McLaren leads the Constructors' standings with 55, while Red Bull Racing owns 42 points, Ferrari have 35, Sauber own 30 points and Lotus are the final team in double digits, lying fifth with 16 points.