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Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 08:50 UK

Chinese GP practice as it happened


By Caroline Cheese

To get involved text us on 81111 with FORMULA 1 before your message. (Not all contributions can be used; UK mobiles only; network rates apply)

0845: Time for sleep. Beautiful, beautiful sleep. What have we learnt today? That Brawn are going to take some stopping. That McLaren might have made a little bit of progress to that end. That Ferrari's nightmare continues. That Robert Kubica and Kers don't go. And that Sebastien Buemi may or may not be scared of bees. See you tomorrow.

From John, BRDC, via text on 81111: "I make that 2 nil Bracknell over Milton Keynes... until Grove interfered."

0837: A small boy, dressed in full Ferrari get-up, stands with his finger to his ear in the style of a pit crew member. Someone's been watching too much telly.

0833: A late charge from Heikki Kovalainen moves him from among the backrunners up to ninth, quicker than his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 13th. The Ferraris are 12th and 14th, but that's a whole lot better than BMW-Sauber who are 17th and 18th.

0830: Time's up folks. The one-two-three is: Button, Rosberg, Barrichello.

0828: And Rosberg splits the Brawns in second.

0827: Williams' Nico Rosberg is flying, moving up to third before setting off another quick one.

0824: With a little over five minutes remaining, Jenson Button takes over from his Brawn team-mate Rubens Barrichello at the top. The Brawns are the only cars to have dipped under 1:36 as it stands.

Force India commercial director Ian Phillips on 5 Live Sport Extra: "Brawn were probably quite happy with the diffuser row because it stopped people looking at the other things that probably make the real difference."

From Edward, Northallerton, via text on 81111: "Re 0808: Ask Flavio, if it's all about diffusers, why are Red Bull so fast?! He's all mouth."

0817: Still Barrichello and Button up top, ahead of the Red Bulls. Lewis Hamilton down in 12th, sandwiched between the two Ferraris.

From BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Before the season, Robert Kubica was saying he would use Kers at the very end of the season, if at all. Certainly not at the Chinese Grand Prix. Maybe now he's decided the car's so bad, just stick it in, see what happens. It can't get any worse."

From Adam in Bolton via text on 81111: "Re 0803: Sounds like sour grapes from Flavio there - wonder if he would say the same if his team was one of the three! I think this year looks to be one of the best!"

0808: Renault's Fernando Alonso moves up from last to 16th, despite some very dodgy looking tyres. The Spaniard is not a happy bunny about the new tyre rules, which mean Bridgestone can only bring two types to a race weekend. "We cannot bring the super soft tyre here in China, this is ridiculous," he said. "This makes the sport look ridiculous."

0803: Renault boss Flavio Briatore reckons the ruling in favour of the 'diffuser three' has made a farce of this season's world championship. He reportedly told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Our (McLaren, Ferrari and Renault) drivers are or have been world champions, and then you have a (Brawn) driver who was almost retired, and another who is a 'paracarro' (Italian for a roadside concrete post) fighting for the championship. I don't know how we can say we have credibility." Credibility: that's something QPR wouldn't mind getting back.

From BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Jenson has changed his helmet design to thank his team for working so tirelessly throughout the winter. The Union Jack will be making a comeback - probably for the European races."

0756: Barrichello is the only man under 1:36 so far, but Brawn team-mate Jenson Button has moved up to second.

0755: Brawn's Rubens Barrichello finds some pace in the last sector and pops up in first, ending the Red Bull stranglehold. He embarks on another quick one too, going quickest in the first sector...

0750: More than halfway through the session now and our leaderboard is still a Red Bull-Renault sandwich. Lewis Hamilton is ninth quickest, Jenson Button 10th. Ferraris 14th and 17th.

0748: Shortly after running wide, Giancarlo Fisichella spins his Force India. The team's commercial director Ian Phillips, taking a turn in the BBC 5 Live commentary box, spots some tired tyres.

From BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Heikki has gone out with the new front wing but still does not have the interim diffuser. Of course, Heikki is yet to complete a racing lap this season."

Maurice Hamilton on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "The performance of the Brawn is not just about the diffuser. It's a very well-designed car. Of course, they had a head start on it after giving up on their 2008 (Honda) car almost as soon as it came out of the box."

0740: But wait. Robert Kubica, on the softer tyres, improves slightly to 17th. That leaves the Renaults at the bottom of the pile, Nelson Piquet Jr bringing up the rear.

0737: Still the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber at the top, ahead of the two Toyotas. Lewis Hamilton is seventh, Felipe Massa 14th and Kimi Raikkonen 16th. Robert 'The curse of Kers' Kubica is rock bottom 20th.

0735: "How come the Red Bulls are very competitive without the double decker diffuser?" asks Fola in Middlesex. Because they have the brilliant Adrian Newey to design a car that is so good it doesn't need one.

0728: Red Bull starting to show, Sebastian Vettel taking over from team-mate Mark Webber at the top. Lewis Hamilton lying sixth after five laps.

Force India commercial director Ian Phillips on 5 Live Sport Extra: "Ferrari are in a mess. They haven't got anything new on the car here - in fact, they've taken the Kers off. I don't know what's going on - but I understand a double diffuser is a long way away for them."

0721: Toyota's Jarno Trulli, on the super-soft tyres, is the first man under 1:37. And finally, Lewis Hamilton and Nick Heidfeld have joined the party.

0720: Williams, one of the 'diffuser three', have been a bit quiet so far today, but they now sit one and two on the leaderboard, Nico Rosberg ahead of Kazuki Nakajima.

0717: Is that the BRDC I wonder? We are in exalted company indeed. Renault have a revamped diffuser with them but they're not running with it currently. They might go with it tomorrow. No other diffuser news as far as we know.

John, BRDC, via text on 81111: "Any other team update their diffusers? Thanks and best!"

0712: Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais takes a turn at the top. Only Lewis Hamilton and 'Quick' Nick Heidfeld are still loitering in the pits.

0707: Fernando Alonso is quickest so far with 12 flying laps posted. Oh look. Alonso's Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr has run off. There's a surprise.

From BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Robert Kubica is still running with Kers but BMW Sauber are not sure they'll carry on for the rest of the weekend."

From Tim, Loughborough, via text on 81111: "To Dan in Malvern (see 0655): all McLaren drivers are equal, but some are more equal than others. Breakfast Orwell!"

0700: And we are go, Timo Glock stealing a (completely pointless) march on his rivals by getting to the track first. Glock is Murray Walker's tip for victory this weekend. Mine too. But then I tip him in every race. One day, I will look like a genius.

From Brownie on a train, via text on 81111: "With the demise of Ron Dennis does this mean that the world of sport has lost its last "Big Ron" manager? Can you or others think of an other out there?"

0658: The temperature is up to a more acceptable 19C, with the track thermometer rising to 34C. Good news all round.

0655: Five minutes until the light goes green. Live streaming fans, your live streaming has sparked into life.

From Dan in Malvern, via text on 81111: "I don't want to see McLaren favouring Hamilton. Surely now that they know the updates work they should get them on Heikki's car ASAP! He deserves it just as much as Hamilton."

And more from BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "I expect Jenson Button to be strong again for Brawn Grand Prix in the second session and we will have to wait and see if Robert Kubica, who was 17th this morning, will continue running with the Kers unit in his BMW Sauber. That gamble might not be paying dividends."

From BBC Sport's pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "It would be nice to think that Lewis Hamilton could sustain the form he has shown in first practice over the entire weekend. There is no doubt that with a few little tweaks his McLaren has improved. But his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen has been talking in Shanghai about finishing in the top 10, and making it through to the final qualifying session - and that is totally different to leading first practice."

0648: Kris from London (see below) is so annoyed he missed first practice, he texted in three times just to tell us. Here's what you missed: McLaren back on form, Brawn still quick, Ferrari still rubbish.

Kris, London, via text on 81111: "I stupidly missed first practice, time to make amends! Come on Jenson, give it some welly!"

0643: Allison (see below), you've made a very tired text commentator happy. Only Lewis Hamilton's car has McLaren's interim diffuser as well as the new front wing. Heikki is more than three-tenths of a second back in fourth.

From Allison, Weston-super-mare, via text on 81111: "Re 0630: No, you aren't dreaming. Any news on Kovalainen and diffusers? How much time difference is there?"

From Eko, Leeds, via text on 81111: "Lewis Hamilton is not world champion for nothing, let his driving do his talking for the rest of the season."

0634: Lewis Hamilton, of course, roared back to the top of the time sheets in first practice. Yesterday, his former boss, Ron Dennis, pretty much ruled out the Englishman's chances of defending his world title. "People seem to be forgetting that we've got the numbers one and two on our cars," he said after quitting F1. "They might not be next year, but we will do everything we can to make it happen again in two years."

0630: Refreshed and revitalised I hope. A little like Lewis Hamilton... In 30 minutes, we'll go again. In the mean time, please send me a text - any text - on 81111 . Just so I know I'm not dreaming this.

0455: Righto. Time for an energy drink or two I should think. The second session kicks off at 0700 BST, I shall return at half six to a deluge of witty texts. 81111 folks!

0446: What about Ferrari though? Sans Kers, they still manage only 11th (Raikkonen) and 15th (Massa) quickest. No quick fix there apparently. And apologies for briefly making Robert Kubica a Toyota driver. I am thoroughly ashamed.

From anon via text on 81111: "I tell you what. The McLarens aren't looking bad are they? Those new alterations seem to be paying dividends."

0435: "I hope still the advantage will be bigger than the disadvantage," said Robert Kubica ahead of using Kers for the first time today. The BMW driver, who is taller and heavier than team-mate Nick Heidfeld, appears to have got his answer today as he lies in 18th.

Anthony Davidson on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "The surprise of this session was the McLarens."

0430: And stop. The one-two-three is Hamilton, Button, Barrichello, and that's the first time this season the world champion has ended a session on top.

0429: One minute remaining...

Former Force India technical director Mike Gascoyne: "McLaren seem to have made a step forward. They will be very pleased with today. They are not a team that plays with fuel levels at all."

Anthony Davidson on tyre graining: "From the driver's side, it's a very frustrating experience, it's out of your control. It's mainly caused when the track is 'green'. It will happen less as the weekend progresses. When it happens on the front, you get heaps of understeer."

0416: Nakajima locking up again at turn 14. He's all over the place.

0413: Kazuki Nakajima runs wide on the first turn. The Williams man is struggling in 18th fastest at the moment. Quarter of an hour left in this session.

0410: "Nothing special," is the verdict of the BMW garage on Robert Kubica's day so far. The Pole is running with Kers for the first time and he's down in 17th.

0407: While McLaren look to be in much better shape, it's looking like another gloomy day in the Ferrari garage. Felipe Massa comes into the pits having just spun on those grained-up tyres. The Brazilian is down in 14th, Kimi Raikkonen 12th.

0404: While we find out if Sebastien Buemi is indeed an apiphobic, I'll tell you that Lewis Hamilton has gone fastest again and that means Britain now actually rules F1, with Jenson Button in P2.

From anon via text on 81111: "Is it true that Sebastien Buemi has a fear of bees?"

0400: The answer is: present day Brawn team-mates Rubens Barrichello, driving for Ferrari, and Jenson Button in his old BAR-Honda. That win was Barrichello's last Grand Prix win, come to mention it…

0358: Bit of early morning quiz chat from David Croft on BBC 5 Live Sport Extra… Who were the top two drivers at the first ever Chinese Grand Prix back in September 2004?

0354: Slightly delayed answer for Alan (see 0309) - well, it is ridiculous o'clock in the morning - but I've just had a little look at the weather forecast. Today: sunny (as we know). Tomorrow: Drizzle. Sunday: Heavy rain!

0350: Luke texts in to ask if Rubens Barrichello is a "lovely person". He is, according to an experienced F1 hack to my left. So that's nice.

0347: Ah, there he is. Thought it had been while since I mentioned F1's man of the moment. Jenson Button sticks his Brawn back in its familiar position of P1 with a 1:37.450. Rubens Barrichello goes second.

0343: Lewis Hamilton pops his McLaren up top with a 1:37.602. And now Mark Webber dips under 1:38 in his Red Bull.

From Pete in Southend via text on 81111: Are my texts getting lost in flight or is it cos I'm talking complete drivel as per usual?!"

0340: Trulli, Rosberg and Alonso fill the top three times so far. Hamilton seventh. Toyota's Robert Kubica, trying out Kers, is 16th quickest.

0338: Ferrari's Felipe Massa reports back to the garage he's having graining problems with his tyres. He's on the harder compound.

Anthony Davidson on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra: "I'm not sure what's happened with Trulli's car. I'll be surprised to see him out through the rest of this session.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Shanghai: "Gosh, knowing me, I'll probably have more stats and facts on the 3.387-mile circuit for you as the weekend goes on, but here are some nuggets to get your juices flowing. The track is notable for its snail-like narrowing turns and long, long straight between Turns 13 and 14. Sam Michael, technical director at Williams, reckons his drivers should use the front-wing flap, designed to aid overtaking, between Turns 12 and 13. He has also got his eye on overtaking opportunities at the end of the back straight. Practice provides the perfect opportunity to try all those tricks out."

0332: Toyota's Jarno Trulli posts a quick 1:37.797, but now he's cruising. Problems there.

0326: Kimi Raikkonen misses his braking point and takes a short detour off the track. It'll be interesting to see how Ferrari run without Kers. Are they sacrificing performance for reliability? Or is Kers just a curse?

0323: Starting to see some lap times now. Magic.

0321: Heikki's reply is quite good too. "I think there are many positives from these races... apart from the actual race day."

0318: As I watch Lewis Hamilton guide his new, improved McLaren around the track, my mind turns to poor Heikki Kovalainen, who's stuck with the duff car today. The first question he was asked at yesterday's press conference began: "What are your feelings about the start of the season? It would be nice to do a lap..."

From Ryan via text on 81111: "I'm sat in my uni library doing some work... at least I was until the live stream got going. Cheers."

0312: Happy days, Benny boy (see below), live streaming is go.

From Ben via text on 81111: "Do I have to get out of bed and put the TV on or are you going to fix the web feed soon? Cheers."

0309: Big news... Lewis Hamilton's car is not only sporting a fancy new front wing, it also appears to have a new diffuser. Poor old Heikki is stuck with old machine.

From Alan via text on 81111: "I am currently in Chengdu (Sichuan) and have seen the weather forecast. Ask your colleagues at BBC weather if there's a threat of thunderstorms this weekend."

0304: Ah. Many apologies if you were hoping to watch the live streaming on the BBC website. It has failed. I have our very best engineers on it, I assure you.

0302: And there is our championship leader Jenson Button. The Brawn driver, I have no need to remind you, is looking for a hat-trick of wins this weekend.

0300: The green light is on and Seb Vettel wastes no time in taking his Red Bull for an early spin. Red Bull are a team very close to my heart this weekend. Their 'wings' are proving invaluable.

0258: Now then, it's been another eventful week in the wacky world of F1, 2009-style. Ron Dennis has gone, and the double-deck diffuser has been given the thumbs-up. Thank goodness for actual racing...

0256: Brrrr. I have just learned from our friends on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra it's a chilly 16C in Shanghai. As if to prove the point, there's a lady in a long-sleeved grey cardigan watching from a grass verge.

Sign at Chinese Grand Prix
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Shanghai: "Greetings from China or as they say at the Shanghai International Circuit "welocme" - home to neon skyscrapers, hot soup dumplings and this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. It may be particularly early on a Friday morning but the track is beginning to come alive. Right now, the skies are blue and there's just a gentle breeze tickling the trees. Local fans arriving for first practice provided even more hazards to swerve around on the drive up to track. And at BBC HQ, presenter Jake Humphrey has been earning his keep - he's just made a tea round AND brought round a tin of Danish butter biscuits. So we're all set then."

0250: Hurray for Oliver, who gets the first text - and manages to keep it clean. Champagne (of the imaginary variety) for you sir. Meanwhile, the texts are literally trickling in. I'm going to endeavour to publish as many as possible folks so stick with it.

From Oliver, Calgary, via text on 81111: "Yep we're here! Watching with much excitement from across the Atlantic."

0243: And I'm going to make a promise (with conditions) right here. The first person to text in on 81111 will be published. Yes indeed. Conditions: must be vaguely F1 related and not include swearing or any other naughtiness.

0240: Practice, of course, gets under way in about 20 minutes. It looks a bit overcast but dry at the Shanghai International Circuit.

0230: Hello? Anyone out there? Course you are! Where else would you be for the start of race weekend three of this extraordinary Formula 1 season?

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see also
Chinese Grand Prix practice results
14 Apr 09 |  Results
Button best as Hamilton improves
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Renault & McLaren change diffuser
16 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
McLaren's Dennis quits Formula 1
16 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Court rules Button's car is legal
15 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
F1 Mole blog
27 Mar 09 |  Formula 1

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