MCLAREN’S Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso declared themselves happy with the performance in Friday’s free practice sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The pair finished 13th and 17th respectively in FP1 before Button reached the top 10 for the first time in 2015 in the second session.
A myriad of spins on a green and dusty track in the morning session was backed up with crashes for Williams’ Felipe Massa and the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat in the afternoon. Both sessions were topped by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
But attention was diverted to a frankly disturbing image of a spectator running across the front straight, as a Force India was fast approaching. Inevitable questions will be raised over security measures at the circuit. However, a 10ft fence is circumstantial proof that there was not much the organisers could do to prevent it.
The Chinese man sprinted across the track and scaled the pitwall before reportedly entering the Ferrari garage, whereby he stated he would like to try one of the cars. Frantically waving his grandstand ticket about, the local “fan” was arrested and escorted from the circuit.
On track meanwhile, there was more cause for optimism for the Button and Alonso – well according to their press office at least. Button finished a respectable 10th fastest in FP2, clocking 29 laps in the process, albeit being 2.056s off pace setter Hamilton.
“We look reasonably good out there, but that can perhaps be explained by the fact that we seem to have been able to extract the maximum out of our car today, whereas perhaps some of the other teams haven’t,” said Button.
The 2009 world champion added, “Irrespective of today’s finishing position, the feeling with the car is good. There’s still room for improvement, but I’m nevertheless looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
After finishing 17th and over three seconds slower in FP1, Alonso ended the afternoon session just two places behind his team-mate in 12th; the Spaniard expressed his satisfaction after a torrid start to the season.
“It’s been a very positive Friday for us – I enjoyed both sessions. We completed our aero programme during the morning, and then focused on set-up work this afternoon,” Alonso said.
“All the updates we brought here seem to be working as we’d expected, and they’ve put us closer to the mid-pack. It’s very encouraging to see that we’re moving firmly in the right direction.”
“It’s a question of time as to when we’ll become competitive.” – Alonso
Despite what must be seen as an up-turn in form after languishing at the bottom of the timesheets in the opening two race weekends, Racing Director Eric Boullier remains understandably cautious over the rate of improvement made.
Boullier commented,“While we won’t get carried away with seeing both cars finish this afternoon’s session in respectable positions, it’s always encouraging to see signs of positive progress.”
“As we witnessed in Malaysia a fortnight ago, we’re continuing intensively to develop and improve MP4-30, and today’s sessions proved to be no exception.