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Button fastest in opening Chinese GP practice

Jenson Button headed a Mercedes 1-2-3-4 in opening practice for the Chinese GP, while Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi each suffered setbacks.

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton did little to dispel the belief that McLaren could have an advantage in the Chinese Grand Prix, but their performance in opening practice was overshadowed by a frightening crash suffered by Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi.

Having seen his team-mate set the early pace, Button vaulted to the top of the times midway through the 90-minute session, clocking a 1min 36.677secs benchmark that would not be beaten thereafter, but the closing minutes of the morning outing were dominated by, first, shock and, then, explanation, of the incident involving Buemi.

The Swiss driver had missed much of the session with brake problems on his STR5, and had only completed five timed laps when, approaching the hairpin with ten minutes remaining, he had both front wheels fly off the car amid a shower of carbon fibre. Initial replays proved inconclusive, save to magnify the severity of the failure, but team sources later revealed that they believed a new upright to have been to blame, the right-side failure of which placed intolerable strain on the entire front end assembly. Fortunately, Buemi was able extract himself from the remains of his car and return to the pits.

Unsurprisingly, he was the slowest of the established teams' drivers setting a lap, sitting in 17th overall, just ahead of the two Lotus drivers, but still fared better than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who failed to set a time after the engine in his F10 failed in spectacular fashion. The unit, which replaced the one lost in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, was the unit previously substituted out of the Ferrari after qualifying in Bahrain, emphasising the Scuderia's wisdom ahead of a race Alonso went on to win.

At the opposite end of the times, the session proved to be something of a Mercedes benefit, with Button and Hamilton split by 'works' driver Nico Rosberg, with Michael Schumacher in fourth. Eight tenths of a second covered the top four, with Sepang winner Sebastian Vettel next up for Red Bull Racing, the only other driver within a second of the ultimate pace.

Renault duo Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov took sixth and seventh, ahead of Mark Webber, Adrian Sutil and Felipe Massa, with another 90 minutes of running scheduled for this afternoon.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Saturday Practice, Fernando Alonso (ESP), Scuderia Ferrari, F10
Saturday Practice, SŽbastien Buemi (SUI), Scuderia Toro Rosso, STR5
Saturday Practice, Jenson Button (GBR), McLaren  Mercedes, MP4-25
McLaren - Honda MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32 F1 launch, [Credit: McLaren]
McLaren MCL32, McLaren-Honda, [Credit: McLaren]
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H
Fernando Alonso - McLaren MCL32

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Paul - Unregistered

April 16, 2010 6:57 AM

As easy as it is to blame the designers of the car these design flaws will probably become more common considering the testing ban... If a team is to have any chance of gaining on the cars ahead of them they have to take risks in the development cycle of new parts and test them at the races... not exactly ideal...

Alan D - Unregistered

April 16, 2010 1:23 PM

Given the spectacular failure of the Torro Rosso, should the FIA be looking at withdrawing them both from the rest of the meeting and telling them to go back to the factory, find out why it failed and what they are going to do to stop that happening again in future? If the wheels had flown off like that in the middle of the scrap down into turn one then they'd be sure to have hit someone and caused carnage. Buemi himself was lucky to walk away unharmed from such a crazy failure. Should the FIA also be asking if it needs to revise its strength tests it does on cars before it passes them fit to race?

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