Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice

The Associated Press
Alonso sets the pace in Chinese GP practice
.

View gallery

SHANGHAI (AP) -- Ferrari's Fernando Alonso set the pace in the first practice session at the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, indicating the struggling team could emerge as a challenger to dominant Mercedes in Sunday's race.

Alonso set a best time of 1 minute, 39.783 seconds around the Shanghai International Circuit, nearly 0.4 seconds faster than Mercedes' Nico Rosberg in second. Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was third, nearly a full second behind Alonso.

Mercedes has won all three races to start the season, with Lewis Hamilton taking two and Rosberg one. Only a engine problem on Hamilton's car in the opening race in Australia has prevented three successive one-two finishes.

Alonso, meanwhile, has managed no better than a pair of fourth-place finishes.

Hamilton was eighth-fastest in Friday's practice, just ahead of four-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull in ninth.

Ferrari has thus far been unable to keep pace with Mercedes following the sport's switch to new V6 turbo hybrid engines.

After Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen finished in ninth and 10th place at the Bahrain GP, respectively, Ferrari abruptly parted ways with team principal Stefano Domenicali, replacing him with Marco Mattiacci, formerly president of Ferrari North America.

Engineering director Pat Fry also seemed to lower expectations coming into the Chinese Grand Prix, saying on Ferrari's website the short-term goal would be to try to be F1's ''second-best team.''

Raikkonen did not set a timed lap Friday morning due to a problem with his car.

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were fourth and sixth, respectively, while Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg was fifth-fastest.

Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso was seventh and Felipe Massa of Williams was 10th.

Heavy smog had hampered visibility at the Shanghai International Circuit on Thursday, but conditions were clear for Friday's practice rounds. Rain and cool temperatures were forecast for Saturday's qualifying session.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.
    • Friday's Sports in Brief

      The findings were handed over to the International Olympic Committee, which will be under pressure to take action against the Russians ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. ''It is impossible to know just how deep and how far … More »

      AP - Sports - 9 minutes ago
    • FANTASY PLAYS: Playoffs add pressure, but stick to decisions

      The fantasy playoffs are here with Week 14 serving as the first round in many leagues. No matter your format, though, we're at the point where every fantasy matchup can put you closer to a title or end your season. While these are the most … More »

      AP - Sports - 11 minutes ago
    • Jammin' Justin: 7-footer a game-changer for No. 10 Creighton

      OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Justin Patton loves to dunk. He did it 21 times in Creighton's first eight games and wishes it could have been more, and not just because all those throw-downs propped up his field-goal shooting to 80 percent, second in the … More »

      AP - Sports - 11 minutes ago
    • Analysis: Most troubling is Russia's reaction to scandal

      Analysis: Most troubling is Russia's reaction to scandal

      Troubling as the details of the McLaren Report were, a news item out of Russia earlier this week was equally so. The new chair of the country's ''revamped'' anti-doping agency will be Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole vault great who has spent the past … More »

      AP - Sports - 12 minutes ago
    • Eric Bledsoe scores 30, Suns hold off Lakers 119-115

      Eric Bledsoe scores 30, Suns hold off Lakers 119-115

      Eric Bledsoe had 30 points and nine assists, Leandro Barbosa added 21 points and the Phoenix Suns snapped their three-game losing streak with a 119-115 victory over the slumping Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Devin Booker had 15 points before … More »

      AP - Sports - 20 minutes ago