Skip to main content

Ferrari back on form in Shanghai practice

April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
Fernando Alonso put a poor start to the season behind him with fast laps during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Fernando Alonso put a poor start to the season behind him with fast laps during practice for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
  • Fernando Alonso posts second fastest time in Shanghai practice
  • New Ferrari team boss Marco Mattiacci wants to make the most of team's "talents"
  • Leading team Mercedes first and third fastest in another strong session
  • Defending champion Red Bull improves to take fourth and fifth

The Circuit is CNN's monthly F1 show. Click here for times, videos, news and features.

(CNN) -- It's been another difficult start to the season for Ferrari, but Formula One's most successful team is showing signs that it may yet be competitive this year.

While Lewis Hamilton continued Mercedes' dominant form by topping the second practice session in Shanghai on Friday, Fernando Alonso followed up his leading time from the morning run by being second fastest in the afternoon.

Watching was Ferrari's new team principal Marco Mattiacci, who has been tasked with restoring the "Prancing Horse" to winning ways.

On his first visit to the F1 paddock ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, the Italian emphasized his "humility" and the steady progress he hopes to make.

"I first need to prove I am at the level of Ferrari, and of Formula One, so you have in front of you an extremely motivated person," the 43-year-old told reporters.

Alonso's teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished the practice sessions with the seventh fastest lap. He had completed only one lap in the day's first practice before spending the rest of the 90 minutes in the pits with a mechanical problem, but emerged to complete 25 laps in the later session.

Hamilton, who has won the last two races in Malaysia and Bahrain, was just 0.014 seconds quicker than Alonso -- though the Englishman had problems with his car in the earlier session.

His teammate Nico Rosberg, who won the season-opener in Australia when Hamilton failed to finish, was 0.411 seconds off the leading pace.

Inside the Mercedes engine
Why is F1 so lucrative?
F1's big design changes

Alonso, who is fourth in the overall standings despite no podium placings in three outings, said he was "happy" with the team's improved performance.

"At every race, all the teams bring something new and we must try and make an additional step forward if we want to be competitive," said the Spanish driver, who won last year's race in Shanghai.

There were also encouraging signs today for last year's constructors' champions Red Bull. Their two drivers took fourth and fifth fastest laps with Daniel Ricciardo narrowly beating out four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel with a time of one minute and 38.811 seconds.

Red revolution?

Ferrari bosses have pinned their hopes on Mattiacci to rescue a season where the team's two star drivers have failed to reach the podium in the opening three races.

He confirmed he was flown to Italy last Friday by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo to discuss the position, and was hidden behind dark sunglasses despite overcast conditions in Shanghai to hide his weariness after a long week of traveling.

Mattiacci has no previous experience in F1, and comes to the Scuderia from a previous position as president and CEO of Ferrari North America.

He claimed that doubts about his pedigree are "very motivating."

"I am an extremely humble person who will listen, and will fight 150% to be a facilitator, to utilize the best talent in Ferrari," Mattiaci said.

"We have a history, a pedigree, that is unique, and a pride that is impressive, and we will react, but to talk about restructuring is too early."

All hands on deck

Di Montezemolo has said will be taking a more hands-on role while Mattiacci becomes accustomed to his new position.

Former team principal Stefano Domenicali resigned on Monday, saying he took responsibility for the team's poor start to the season.

With two-time world champion Alonso and 2007 titleholder Raikkonen in the stable, Ferrari had high hopes of breaking Red Bull's four-year dominance of the sport. But the team parted with Domenicali after the drivers finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in ninth and 10th positions.

While the practice results offer hope that a change in fortunes could be close, Ferrari's engineering director Pat Fry urged caution.

"Even if we are making progress on all fronts, we are well aware that it's always hard to know where you stand on a Friday," he told reporters.

"Today's low temperatures affected tire performance and even if we can expect the track surface to be in better condition tomorrow, the rain expected for qualifying could turn the session into a real lottery."

Read: What's the secret to Mercedes' success?

Follow the latest action with CNN's essential F1 guide

Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook

Part of complete coverage on
Track the buzz of the 2014 Formula One season, race by race, with all the latest social reaction from motorsport experts.
He's the best of the rest -- Daniel Ricciardo has been Formula One's surprise package in the first half of the 2014 season.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Formula One is not likely to go hungry in Hungary as master chefs cater in volume for drivers, teams and VIP guests.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
It's the elephant in the room of Formula One. What's the prognosis legendary driver Michael Schumacher?
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
It stimulates all five senses, creating an unparalleled experience for drivers and fans alike. Take a tour of Monaco with Mark Webber.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
To be a champion you must win a title -- but to become an F1 legend you must win races at Monaco, the calendar's most testing circuit.
May 21, 2014 -- Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
Caterham F1 reserve driver Alexander Rossi takes you on a tour of the Monaco racing circuit.
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
The Formula One driver transcended his sport and even 20 years after his death, Ayrton Senna commands the adoration of fans worldwide.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN ARABIC BY SUHEIL HOWAYEK: (FILES) Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna adjusts his rear view mirror in the pits 01 May 1994 before the start of the San Marino Grand Prix. Senna died after crashing in the seventh lap. Some 45 drivers, including Senna and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, have been killed during Formula One races whose tracks are dubbed by some as the 'circuits of death.' AFP PHOTO/JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU (Photo credit should read JEAN-LOUP GAUTREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
F1's greatest racer was killed during the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1 1994. The sport hasn't been the same since.
April 30, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Just four F1 drivers turned up to Roland Ratzenberger's funeral after his death during qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix on April 30 1994.
April 25, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
For a championship with a distinctly Iberian streak, it is no surprise that South America should be high on MotoGP's list of territories to conquer.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Susie Wolff, pictured, will become the Formula One's first female competitor in 20 years when she takes part in the first practice sessions at the British and German grands prix in July.
Too weak. Can't handle the pressure. Susie Wolff has heard it all -- but she is determined to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years.