Top of the timesheets when the chequered flag fell was Nico Rosberg, chased by teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Behind the Mercedes pair were the Red Bull drivers, with Mark Webber out-pacing Sebastian Vettel, while Jenson Button’s P6 finish was heartening for those on the McLaren pit wall. The Woking team are pursuing multiple development paths with a view to reigniting their championship challenge as quickly as possible.
All eyes were on the tyres, with degradation continuing to be a major concern for teams the length of the pit lane. Mercedes appeared to have the advantage on their longer runs, with Rosberg maintaining his pace on visibly grained tyres while his rivals struggled for grip.
The morning session came to an embarrassing end for Sergio Perez, who wound up stuck in the gravel at the pit entry after the chequered flag had fallen.
The afternoon action in Shanghai saw an increase in pace as teams put one or both drivers on qualifying simulations with a view to learning as much as they could about the soft tyre in weather conditions expected to be similar to those on Saturday afternoon.
Less than half an hour after the pitlane opened for business, the move from medium to soft tyres saw early pace-setters Mercedes dethroned by the Ferrari pairing and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen.
Felipe Massa was the hero of the hour (-and-a-half), proving himself to be adept at maintaining his pace on rapidly degrading medium tyres over the course of his long runs. By the time the session was half run, the track was littered with marbles, and chunks of rubber could be seen flying from the tyres as the cars made their way down the main straight.
Partly thanks to the loss of grid caused by the fragile rubber, FP2 was littered with offs and minor incidents. Perez once again found himself flying across the kitty litter – this time at Turn 8 – before clipping his car on the barriers and limping back to the pits. Button had his own struggles, flat-spotting his rubber, delaminating his front left tyre, and leaving his tea-tray smoking in the chaos.
Max Chilton found himself beset by technical difficulties, missing out on much of the afternoon thanks to oil pressure issues that forced the Briton to stop on track at the beginning of FP2. The Marussia driver’s next attempt at running was equally ill-fated, and ended with the rookie driver parking trackside for a second and final time.
Special mention should be made of Jules Bianchi, who briefly occupied P11 on the timesheets thanks to an early soft tyre run before slipping back down the order to a more realistic P19. But Bianchi’s performance should be praised, not denigrated – he is proving himself to be one to watch, and is doing an excellent job of highlighting Marussia’s improving form.
FP1 times (unofficial)
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m36.717s [21 laps]
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m37.171s [20 laps]
3. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1m37.658s [21 laps]
4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m37.942s [20 laps]
5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m37.965s [17 laps]
6. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m38.069s [24 laps]
7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m38.095s [14 laps]
8. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m38.125s [21 laps]
9. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m38.398s [17 laps]
10. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1m38.561s [15 laps]
11. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1m38.790s [16 laps]
12. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m39.057s [19 laps]
13. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1m39.158s [22 laps]
14. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m39.180s [21 laps]
15. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1m39.336s [19 laps]
16. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m39.360s [20 laps]
17. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m39.392s [20 laps]
18. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m40.032s [22 laps]
19. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1m41.966s [16 laps]
20. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m42.056s [18 laps]
21. Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) 1m42.083s [21 laps]
22. Ma Qing Hua (Caterham) 1m43.545s [20 laps]
FP2 times (unofficial)
1. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m35.340s [32 laps]
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1m35.492s [32 laps]
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m35.755s [30 laps]
4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m35.819s [35 laps]
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1m36.092s [31 laps]
6. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m36.432s [29 laps]
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m36.496s [39 laps]
8. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m36.514s [32 laps]
9. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1m36.595s [33 laps]
10. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m36.791s [27 laps]
11. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m36.940s [16 laps]
12. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m36.963s [31 laps]
13. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m37.103s [22 laps]
14. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1m37.206s [39 laps]
15. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m38.127s [34 laps]
16. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m38.185s [18 laps]
17. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m38.211s [32 laps]
18. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1m38.276s [34 laps]
19. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1m38.725s [29 laps]
20. Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) 1m39.271s [21 laps]
21. Charles Pic (Caterham) 1m39.814s [27 laps]
22. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m43.227s [5 laps] By Kate Walker