Heikki ran a couple of installs on the option tyre before beginning his day's running, using the prime to notch up three further runs (five laps/1m37.672s best; five laps/1m38.173s and four laps/1m37.716s). He completed a comparison between the old and new front-wing specs although reported a persistent issue with the hydraulic flap system, which compromised his consistency. "I'm very impressed by the performance upgrades for this race," he said afterwards. "We still need to do more work to find the best balance, but our car definitely feels more stable here."
As with most Friday afternoons, the team ran a tyre comparison programme, particularly looking at the stint-life of the super-soft Bridgestone option, which is expected to be more marginal here than at other circuits. Heikki started the session on primes, running a five-lap stint (1m38.219s) and a longer eight-lap run on a heavier fuel-load (1m37.918s). Towards the end of the session, he did a 10-lap run on options, setting a 1m39.130s best and being impressed by the tyre's consistency. He ended the day with a couple of quick laps, setting his best time of the day with a 1m36.674s.
Lewis started the session using the new six-plane front wing and immediately reported an improvement in the front-end. "The car instantly felt a bit better," he said. "I can definitely feel more stability and downforce from the front." After two initial install laps, Lewis completed three shorter runs (four laps/1m37.603s; three laps/1m37.334s and four laps 1m37.838s). "We've definitely made a step forward for this race," he concluded. "The car feels much stronger through the corners and I think we've got a very positive baseline for the rest of the weekend."
Between-session bodywork changes to the car meant Lewis began P2 a little later than planned as the team turned their focus towards tyre evaluations over longer stints. Lewis did three runs, starting with a shorter five-lap stint on primes (1m36.941s) before testing the super-soft option tyre: seven laps/1m37.341s and nine laps/1m37.283s which showcased the limited life of the softer rubber. "My first run on the options felt quite consistent," he said, "The drop-off definitely feels manageable. This was a good day, although we still need to work on MP4-24's medium- and high-speed balance."To check out our Shanghai practice gallery, click here
Martin Whitmarsh - team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: "The team, both at the track and back in the factory, has done a fantastic job to get these bodywork upgrades to Shanghai - and initial analysis would suggest that they have contributed to a slight uplift in our overall competitiveness. We are still working on MP4-24's overall balance, but nonetheless concluded some productive tyre evaluation work. Heikki's day was compromised by a hydraulic system problem which failed to adjust his front wing flaps correctly, a fault that distracted both him and his engineers from their regular programme."
Norbert Haug - vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "Seeing Lewis in P1 after this morning's session brought back some good memories - although we are aware that the team's package is not yet competitive. Still, the improvements we have made to the car - which are particularly relentless at the moment - should see us making another encouraging step forward. Sunday's race will be greatly influenced by the performance over a stint of the Bridgestone super-soft, but our consistency on both tyres looks quite okay at this early stage of the weekend."