Lewis Hamilton finished FP1 on top while Michael Schumacher headed the list in FP2 as Mercedes-power took charge in Shanghai.
First practice took place in wet conditions with light rain falling and much of the session being run on intermediate tyres. Mark Webber was the early pace-setter but, as is often the case on a damp track, a flurry of fast laps in the last few minutes with the circuit at its best saw various drivers displace him. Lewis Hamilton finished the session on top for McLaren with the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher second and third respectively.
Next up were the Saubers of Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi, followed by Webber and Sebastian Vettel and then the second McLaren of Jenson Button. The top ten was rounded out by the Toro Rosso pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Further down the order it was a day to remember for Jules Bianchi and Guido van der Garde, both of whom were participating in an F1 race weekend for the first time. Bianchi, Force India’s reserve finished the session in 20th, with van der Garde one place higher for Caterham.
If the morning session saw relatively little running because of the rain, then most teams tried to make up for that in the afternoon, cramming in as many laps as they could. While dry, the weather was far from good, and in the cold, foggy conditions many drivers were struggling to get heat into their tyres, which may have contributed to the above-average number of lock-ups and slides. The big drama of the session, however, was reserved for Timo Glock whose nosecone broke free on the main straight, pitching the German driver into the wall. The team later released a statement saying their car had not suffered a mechanical failure, though it did not clarify whether that meant human error of some other problem.
At the other end of things Hamilton had to settle for second place behind Schumacher in the second session, with that pair narrowly ahead of Vettel and Webber. After feeling uncomfortable with his car in Australia and Malaysia, Vettel had opted to return to an earlier evolution of the car today, specifically the one that ran in the first Barcelona test, while Webber persevered with the latest version of the RB8. Behind the Red Bulls came Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button and then Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber ahead of the two Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg. Championship leader Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten.
"It was a trouble-free day, and I am quite happy with how our car is handling so far here,” said Schumacher after the session. “The balance of the car was reasonably good, and obviously a balanced car contributes a lot to lap time.”