Kimi Raikkonen may have looked comfortable as he paced the two opening practice sessions of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend but, like the majority of his rivals, the Finn was made to wait for reasonable conditions to grace the rarely-used Shanghai International Circuit.

Raikkonen set the fastest lap of the day at 1min 36.607secs in the final minutes of the afternoon session using the softer Bridgestone compound, having earlier paced the morning's 90-minute outing on the harder option, but Shanghai provided a challenge for all of the teams as they found it 'green' after weeks of inactivity.

"To start with, the circuit was very dirty and drivers complained of a lack of grip," Bridgestone's director of motorsport tyre development Hirohide Hamashima said, "However, the circuit soon improved and the drivers were able to feel this improvement, although they still wanted more grip and many struggled to find a good set-up.

"The difference between the hard and medium compound Potenza was on average around 0.2secs, but that depends on the car and driver. The wear rate on the left hand front tyre was a little higher than we predicted, but it will be no problem for either compound to complete a race distance. Both grip levels and tyre wear rates should improve after we've seen more running on the track, and we should see an improvement tomorrow."

Nico Rosberg was among those to take time to find grip on the circuit, but the German was not alone.

"It took me a few laps to get used to this track again, mainly because it felt very different from last year on our current tyres," the Williams driver revealed, "Over the two sessions, we found some interesting results in terms of tyres and wing level, and we tried a few other things and really made good progress with the set-up."

"At the beginning of the day, the track was nearly undriveable and it was very difficult just to stay on," rookie, and Shanghai newcomer, Adrian Sutil added, "By the end of the day, it was much better and I think we can expect a further improvement tomorrow. We did long runs on both the hard and soft tyre option, and found that the balance was definitely better on the softer tyres. On a new soft option, the runs were quite good, but with the hard tyre we just don't seem to be able to make them work at the moment and I think we need to wait until the track gets a bit more grip."

Veteran Giancarlo Fisichella also reported a definite improvement in conditions as the day wore on.

"The circuit was quite dirty this morning, and it took a while to clean up, but the conditions were quite good by the end of second practice," he reported.

"On new rubber, we could not get the most out of the tyres, so our times on both prime and option were not quite as good as they should have been," Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi concluded, "But we already have a good idea of what to run in the qualifying and the race."

Friday's preparations could yet be rendered meaningless if weather forecasts for the area prove correct. Although conditions were very hot and humid throughout the opening day, things may take a turn for the worse as the remains of a typhoon might bring thunderstorms to the circuit in time for qualifying tomorrow afternoon - and hang around for most of the day on Sunday.

 

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