Nick Heidfeld and Heikki Kovalainen both fell short of the amount of track time they were expecting at Shanghai International Circuit after running into mechanical problems in the first free practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix.

BMW Sauber driver Heidfeld was by far the worst hit, having his car stop twice during the day. Desperate to minimise his losses, the German help to get the F1.07 back to the pits for repairs, enabling him to make it out at the end of each 90-minute segment, but he covered just 29 laps of the Shanghai facility where the majority of his rivals were managing more than that in each session.

"Of course I'm disappointed because I was not able to do a lot of driving today," Heidfeld sighed, "In both the sessions, I had an hydraulic leak which meant a gearbox change. The mechanics did a great job, but the track conditions were also changing, making any sensible comparisons impossible."

Technical director Willy Rampf confirmed that the team would be checking the data accumulated by Heidfeld and, to a greater extent, team-mate Robert Kubica in an effort to determine the best set-up for the German to begin day two with.

Kovalainen, meanwhile, achieved P11 in both sessions, but missed a large chunk of the afternoon outing after his Renault also stopped on track and had to be taken back to the pits. Like Heidfeld, however, the Finn - who arrived in China on the back of his best F1 result to date - managed to rejoin at the end of the day and completed 38 laps on the day.

"I think we had a decent day, in spite of my problem," he reflected, "I lost a little bit of running time but, thanks to the mechanics doing a great job, I squeezed in a couple more runs before the end of the session, which was important. This was my first time at the track, and I think I got to grips with it pretty fast, so I did most of our normal programme, and we know where to work on overnight to improve our competitiveness."

Renault's head of track operations, Denis Chevrier, later revealed that 'a problem with a fuel coupling meant Heikki lost fuel pressure'.

 

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