Although Hamilton was left grumbling about his Mercedes towards the end of the second practice session for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix, the 29-year-old still managed to again outpace the rest.
“Something’s not right with this car,” moaned Hamilton late in the second 90-minute run at a chilly Shanghai International Circuit where temperatures only managed to reach 16C.
That followed a mechanical problem with the rear suspension that restricted Hamilton running in the first session.
Yet despite the niggles, the Englishman topped the timesheet for the third time in the four Friday outings this season, finishing with a lap of one minute 38.315 seconds, with Fernando Alonso 0.141secs adrift in a Ferrari seemingly more competitive in the cooler conditions.
After winning the last two races in Malaysia and Bahrain, Hamilton is far from convinced he and team-mate Nico Rosberg will have it all their own way again this weekend as they have done so far.
“It was quite a difficult day as we missed some of Friday morning’s session which put us on the back foot slightly,” said Hamilton. “But we were glad to get some laps in the second session at least, although we’re not too happy with the balance of the car at the moment.
“A few of the other teams look to have improved in terms of pace, which is great as it means we will have a fight.”
With new Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci in town on the first day ofhis new job, Alonso chosethe perfect opportunity to prove the Prancing Horseis alive and kicking thisseason.
Stefano Domenicali resigned from his post on Monday to be replaced by Mattiacci after a disappointing start to the current campaign and after six seasons with only one trophy to his name.
With Mattiacci in the paddock, wearing sunglasses throughout despite the leaden skies over the track — apparently due to tiredness — Alonso was quickest in FP1 and in close attendance in FP2.
Championship leader Rosberg, 11 points clear of Hamilton, was four-10ths of a second adrift, followed closely by Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull.
The Australian, eager to put behind him the team’s failed appeal this week against his disqualification from the season-opening race on his home track, was 0.496secs down.
Notably, Ricciardo was again ahead of reigning four-time champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel , exactly seven-10ths of a second down.
Williams’ Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari were sixth and seventh-quickest.