Salisbury JournalAlonso quickest in first practice (From Salisbury Journal)

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Alonso quickest in first practice

Salisbury Journal: Marco Mattiacci is the centre of attention in China (AP) Marco Mattiacci is the centre of attention in China (AP)

With Marco Mattiacci in town on the first day of his new job as team principal of Ferrari, Fernando Alonso chose the perfect opportunity to prove the Prancing Horse is alive and kicking this season.

Just 12 days ago, Alonso crossed the finishing line at the end of the race in Bahrain sarcastically punching the air in delight following a ninth-place finish, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen 10th.

That came on the day president Luca Di Montezemolo chose to visit the paddock for the first time this season, and he was naturally left far from impressed.

Eight days later, Stefano Domenicali announced his resignation as team principal, ending just over six seasons in charge, during which time Ferrari collected only one trophy.

In Domenicali's place, Di Montezemolo has seemingly made an unusual appointment in Mattiacci as the 43-year-old has no experience of F1, although is understood to be a skilled manager given his previous role as president and CEO of Ferrari North America.

With Mattiacci in the paddock, wearing sunglasses throughout despite the leaden skies over the Shanghai International Paddock, Alonso was out in front in his seemingly under-performing Ferrari at the end of first practice.

The double world champion topped the timesheet in first practice for the Chinese Grand Prix with a lap of one minute 39.783secs, finishing 0.398secs clear of current championship leader Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes.

However, FP1 was a session of stark contrast for Ferrari as Raikkonen was bottom of the timesheet with just one installation lap against his name due to a technical issue.

As for Rosberg's team-mate Lewis Hamilton, winner of the last two grands prix in Malaysia and Bahrain and aiming for a hat-trick of victories for the first time in his F1 career, the Briton was down in eighth, 1.777secs behind Alonso.

Immediately behind Rosberg was Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull, with the Australian eager to put behind him the team's failed appeal this week against his disqualification from the season-opening race in Australia, albeit a second off the pace.

The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were fourth and sixth quickest, with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg sandwiched in between, the trio all comfortably over a second adrift.

Also ahead of Hamilton in seventh was Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa in his Williams behind the Briton to complete the top 10, with the latter 1.916secs down on Alonso.

Williams and Sauber gave reserves Felipe Nasr and Giedo van der Garde an outing, and both responded well, finishing 13th and 14th.

Van der Garde even finished ahead of team-mate Esteban Gutierrez who was down in a lowly 18th and 1.3secs behind the Dutchman.

Briton's Max Chilton, who has so far completed all 22 races in which he has entered since starting in F1, was down in 21st, five seconds back on Alonso.

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