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Massa fastest in F1 Chinese GP practice

April 12, 2013

Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso of Spain, left, and Felipe Massa of Brazil, right, pose with their team for a group photo prior to the first practice session at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai, China, Friday, April 12, 2013. — Photo by AP

SHANGHAI: Ferrari driver Felipe Massa set the fastest time in Friday's practice sessions for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, earning praise from his team for an ''incredible'' performance.    

Massa set a best time of 1 minute, 35.340 seconds around the Shanghai International Circuit in the afternoon session, putting him 0.15 seconds ahead of Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, with Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso third.

Massa's strong performance surprised even Ferrari, with engineer Rob Smedley telling him over his pit-to-car radio that ''the pace is not good, it's incredible.''

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, who won this race last year and led it the two times before that, was fourth fastest on his pet circuit and Red Bull's Mark Webber was fifth. Webber, who is feuding with teammate Sebastian Vettel, will doubtless take some pleasure in seeing the three-time world champion down in tenth on the timesheets.

McLaren driver Jenson Button was sixth and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton seventh, with both those driver among many complaining of high tire degradation.

The sides of the main straight were carpeted in 'marbles' of shorn rubber and the softer of the two compounds was barely lasting two laps before the times began to drop away.

Raikkonen complained over his radio that the soft tire will not work in the race, setting up a series of early pitstops on Sunday, as the race leaders will start on softs because they need to use them in qualifying.

Force India pair Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were eighth and ninth fastest respectively.

The main casualty of the session was Marussia driver Max Chilton, whose car ground to a halt very early with a suspected fuel pressure failure. Having got it restarted for the final 10 minutes, he again soon pulled off the circuit with a similar failure.

Williams driver Valtteri Bottas also missed the first half of the second session with an unreported mechanical failure.