Malaysian GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report
Hamilton fastest in first Malaysia practice
Lewis Hamilton (1:38.021) took up where McLaren left off in Melbourne when he headed the first session of free practice for Sunday's Malaysian GP.
Hamilton lapped just over half a second quicker than Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull (1:38.525), the world champion saying yesterday that he fully expects McLaren to be just as competitive in Malaysia as they were in Australia.
The Mercedes F1 W03s of Nico Rosberg (1:38.813) and Michael Schumacher (1:38.826) were third and fourth quickest. The team has admitted that the extent of the tyre degradation they saw in Australia was a surprise, with Rosberg explaining that he noticed his tyres going off after around eight laps, when those behind started to press him.
Although the Pirelli compounds used in Malaysia are different (the medium and hard tyres are on offer at Sepang rather than the soft and medium used at Albert Park), degradation will be an issue in Malaysia due to the high-speed nature of some of the turns and the high temperatures.
Romain Grosjean (1:38.919) showed that the Lotus pace in Australia was no one-off, the French-Swiss just a tenth behind the Mercedes twins despite losing some of the session due to a problem with the right rear wheel, which was not properly located.
Mark Webber (1:39.092) found himself in a Lotus sandwich with the second Red Bull, with Paul Di Resta (1:39.298) eighth quickest in the first Force India and separated from team mate Nico Hulkenberg (1:39.440) by Jenson Button's McLaren (1:39.323). The Melbourne winner had to sit out the latter part of the session when his McLaren spring an oil leak.
Williams again looked impressive, with Finnish reserve driver Valtteri Bottas taking in the first Friday session in place of Bruno Senna. The reigning GP3 champion lapped in 1:39.724 with team mate Pastor Maldonado (1:39.783) next up.
Fernando Alonso anticipated that Malaysia could be a tough race for Ferrari and appears to be right - the Spaniard (1:39.980) could manage only 15th quickest, a tenth of a second and two places behind Felipe Massa (1:39.896) in the sister F2012.
There were more problems for HRT, who had Narain Kathikeyan grind to a halt with more hydraulic problems after setting 1:45.360 in eight laps, just over half a second outside 107% of Hamilton's time.