Some driver news: Pic has moved to Caterham, and will probably take Kovalainen's seat. In addition, Sauber will have another Mexican driver as Hulkenberg is joined next year by Esteban Gutierrez.
For practice Pirelli have brought along an orange tyre, which is one of next year's compounds. This is to allow teams to have a bit of a play and get some data on them ahead of the inter-season break.
The tyres for the race and qualifying are medium and hard, but intermediate and wet will perhaps be just as (and maybe more) important.
P1 is tricky to read, because the fastest time was set on the orange tyres. Those are not to be used in the race, so it's not really a valid time. The session was 100% dry and sunny, and so may be 0% useful for qualifying and/or the race. However, the order was: Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Button, Alonso, Massa, Grosjean, Di Resta, Maldonado and Hulkenberg.
The second practice session also had Hamilton fastest, with Vettel and Webber still second and third. Massa was next, then Alonso, Schumacher, Rosberg, Button, Grosjean and Di Resta.
Ferrari seemed to do well in the wet at previous races, such as Malaysia (aided by good strategy), the United Kingdom and Germany.
P3 was dry but overcast and colder than prior sessions. The McLarens have clear dominance, of the top teams, on the straights, which will help them during the race when overtaking is needed. Raikkonen's engine died before he could set a flying lap time. Fastest was Button then came Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Grosjean, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Maldonado and Massa.
Current forecasts suggest a roughly 50/50 chance of rain during qualifying. In P3 commentary it was suggested that rain would fall towards the very end of the qualifying period.
Things look bad for Ferrari. Both were near the back end, and that's without Raikkonen setting a time. Force India are looking rather tasty, and Maldonado could spoil Alonso's party as well.
I've decided not to tip on qualifying. Perhaps a little cowardly, but the three I had considered (laying Massa to reach Q3, backing Button to be top 3 and backing Di Resta to reach Q3) were afflicted by lack of available cash to match, and poor odds for the latter two.
Coupled with the uncertain weather situation I'd rather not put money on something that has iffy odds. However, I have hedged my Raikkonen to be top 3 (title race) bet a bit more at 1.64 so I make the same amount whatever happens.
The qualifying looks pretty unpredictable, so hopefully rain will strike and it'll be exciting. In race conditions, especially if it's dry, the McLaren's top speed advantage could make them the team to watch.