FORMULA 1: Chinese Grand Prix preview

PASTOR Maldonado played down his pit-lane crash as the Enstone-based Lotus team experienced a mixed practice day at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The Venzuelan was simply returning to the pits during the second practice session, but with too much speed as he ran across the gravel and into the tyre wall.

Maldonado, who also spun his car, ended the session 18th, having been 16th in free practice one.

His teammate Romain Grosjeanwas 12th in the opening session and then moved up to ninth.

Maldonado said: “The incident this afternoon was a mistake from my side. I was a little optimistic on the entry to the pits, and the run-off is quite short, but that’s how it is.

“It’s a tricky part of the track and we’ve seen incidents there before.

“Now we need to look forward – we had a good FP1 and we managed to test a few things in FP2, which means we have good data.

“The car is improving – the power unit seems to be better and more consistent – so we’re making good progress.

“Hopefully, this weekend will be much better. Points are realistic, so we’ll do our best to achieve that.”

Grosjean said: “Everything seemed to work a little better today and everybody is working hard, both on the chassis side and on the power unit.

“For tomorrow, we will see what can be achieved and of course it would be wonderful to be able to qualify in the top ten.”

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) topped the second practice standings ahead of Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), while Felipe Massa, of Grove-based Williams was sixth.

Massa said: “All of the upgrades we brought here have improved performance, which is really positive.

“The balance and feeling of the car is better, however we know that most other teams have made improvements.

“The low track temperatures made it slippery, and if it rains tomorrow it will be the same in the race.”

Test driver Felipe Nasr was 13th for Williams in first practice, with Valtteri Bottas 14th in the second session.

Banbury-based Marussia’s Max Chilton was 20th, one place behind teammate Jules Bianchi.

Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson, of Leafield’s Caterham, finished 21st and 22nd.