McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton proved fastest of all in both Friday sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
In Kuala Lumpur’s typical hot and humid conditions, Hamilton set a best lap in the morning of 1:38.021, falling just over one-tenth shy of this mark in the afternoon.
The 2008 World Champion jumped ahead of Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher in the closing stages of Free Practice 2, before extending the gap further just prior to the chequered flag.
The opening session saw Hamilton head the charts, some five-tenths up on Red Bull man Sebastian Vettel.
It was not all clean from Hamilton. A high fuel run late in the day uncovered balance issues, with the McLaren pilot falling off circuit on a number of occasions.
Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button endured a drawn out morning due to an oil leak failure; however the 2009 World Champion made up for this in the afternoon with some strong running.
Vettel was having difficulties with the medium Pirelli’s due to their quick drop off rate – no doubt accelerated by the Malaysian heat – causing the double world champion to slide around in his RB8.
In a back-to-back test, Mark Webber continued with the exhaust as used in Australia, while Vettel ran the previous version from the final test in Barcelona.
Fernando Alonso spent much of the morning clocking up much needed aerodynamic comparison work – which entailed running a new front wing in FP2 – before testing Pirelli’s different tyre compounds under varying levels of fuel during the later session.
Felipe Massa appeared to be well off of Alonso’s pace; however the Brazilian spent much of his day on a different programme to his Spanish teammate.
Mercedes put their two drivers through their paces, with the focus on tyre evaluations. Between them, Schumacher and Nico Rosberg completed 108 laps of the Sepang circuit, as they strive to manage consistent long runs.
Lotus duo, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean coveted the hard tyres in the morning, while they configured a baseline set-up for the weekend, although there may still be more work to do. Set-up work for the race followed, with Grosjean staying with the hard compound Pirelli and Raikkonen switching to the mediums.
Raikkonen tested a new steering rack in both sessions, following complaints from the Finn regarding the ‘weight’ of feel from the steering wheel. He would suffer from an3 inoperative KERS unit in FP2.
Grosjean lost time in the morning, due to ill-fitting wheelnut dislodging his right rear wheel somewhat.
A brake disc problem was one of several difficulties faced by Force India’s Paul di Resta. The scot also suffered two rather dramatic offs, as well as a few leery moments of rear-end sliding, while Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed a clean day.
Sauber faced severe balance issues, as Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez struggled to get to grips with their Ferrari-powered C31 machine. Although things improved for Perez in long runs after the break, Kobayashi lost further time due to gearbox problem.
Toro Rosso ran some minor aerodynamic evaluations, before moving to set-up programmes for the second session. Neither driver appeared to have any issues, as they notched up 56 laps apiece.
Williams also concentrated on minor aerodynamic adjustments and tyre runs, as they aim for their first points of 2012. Thankfully, none of the drivers reported any issues in their respective FW34 machines. Valtteri Bottas sat in for Bruno Senna during FP1 – the first of fifteen pre-arranged FP1 sessions for the Finn during the coming season. Bottas will be replacing Senna in all his outings.
Set-ups, tyre evaluations and systems checks were the order of the day at Caterham. Despite going the wrong way on set-up in the morning, Heikki Kovalainen was brought back in the afternoon, although poor grip in early tyre stints still bothered the Finn. Kovalainen’s Russian teammate, Vitaly Petrov, discovered no problems during practice.
Marussia focussed on aerodynamic configurations and set-up work, while they continue to learn about the MR01. There was a new floor section on Timo Glock’s car, which appeared to deliver positive results.
Considering how last week’s Australian Grand Prix developed, Friday was a far better day for HRT, with Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan managing 40 and 26 laps respectively. However it wasn’t all good news for the Spanish team, as a hydraulic problem ensured Karthikeyan’s FP1 came to an early halt
Both cars also suffered from cooling problems, which could make the race an extremely tough one for its driver pairing. By the end of FP2, both drivers had placed their Cosworth-powered cars well inside the 107% time as set by Hamilton, as the team continued to claw away at the F112’s fundamental issues. Today also saw the team use DRS for the first time in 2012.
2012 Malaysian Grand Prix (Round 2, Free Practice 1) Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.021s 19 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.535s + 0.514 21 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.813s + 0.792 21 4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.826s + 0.805 19 5. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m38.919s + 0.898 17 6. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.092s + 1.071 20 7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m39.128s + 1.107 22 8. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.298s + 1.277 23 9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.323s + 1.302 15 10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.440s + 1.419 19 11. Valterri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m39.724s + 1.703 23 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.783s + 1.762 23 13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.896s + 1.875 16 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.910s + 1.889 21 15. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.980s + 1.959 23 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.099s + 2.078 23 17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m40.247s + 2.226 19 18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.469s + 2.448 23 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m40.857s + 2.836 25 20. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.085s + 3.064 23 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.170s + 5.149 18 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m44.580s + 6.559 14 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m45.360s + 7.339 8 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m45.528s + 7.507 18 ^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.
2012 Malaysian Grand Prix (Round 2, Free Practice 2) Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.172 28 2. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.533s + 0.361 34 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.535s + 0.363 29 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.696s + 0.524 34 5. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.853s + 0.681 33 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.891s + 0.719 27 7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.133s + 0.961 29 8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.297s + 1.125 33 9. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m39.311s + 1.139 22 10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.402s + 1.230 25 11. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.444s + 1.272 35 12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.464s + 1.292 26 13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.625s + 1.453 20 14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.687s + 1.515 16 15. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m39.696s + 1.524 29 16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.271s + 2.099 27 17. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m40.678s + 2.506 34 18. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.947s + 2.775 33 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m41.464s + 3.292 25 20. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.681s + 3.509 20 21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m42.594s + 4.422 18 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.874s + 4.702 24 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m43.658s + 5.486 18 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m43.283s + 5.561 22 ^Notes compiled from live updates and team releases.