Hamilton fastest in FP1 at Sepang

By on Friday, March 23, 2012

Lewis Hamilton during FP1 in Malaysia

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has ended FP1 fastest in Malaysia ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, with the heat causing high amounts of tyre wear up and down the grid. Jenson Button suffered a difficult morning session, as the 2009 world champion’s running was cut short due to an oil leak on his McLaren.

As the session got underway in hot and humid conditions it was the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne that took to the track first, the Frenchman followed out by many other drivers’ eager to complete their installation laps. Force India’s Paul Di Resta set the first timed lap of the weekend with a 02:04.524 shortly after the session began.

That timed lap was quickly beaten as Timo Glock, then Jenson Button went quicker. The McLaren driver set a 01:39.323 which was then beaten by a couple of tenths by F1 returnee Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn confident of a possible podium finish this weekend for Lotus.

The other Lotus driver of Romain Grosjean suffered an issue with his right-rear tyre throughout FP1, as the Frenchman limped back to the pits. Many believed at first that he was stuck in seventh gear, but as he returned to the pits it became apparent the tyre had worked itself loose. If Grosjean had gone any faster on his way back to the pits, it could have ended disastrously for the Frenchman.

Whilst the Lotus mechanics worked on Grosjean’s car, Michael Schumacher went fastest for Mercedes with a 01:39.083, which he improved upon shortly afterwards.

As the session wore on, the threat of rain in practice 2 began increasing, forcing many teams’ to alter their Friday plans to accommodate for the possibility of wet running in the afternoon. Hamilton, meanwhile, shot to the top with a 01:38.598, which was beaten by Vettel with a 01:38.535 as the times began to get faster. Hamilton continued his improvements at the top, going even quicker with a 01:38.021 after a heavy lock-up into turn 15.

HRT’s miseries continued throughout practice 1 as Narain Karthikeyan ground to a halt, this time with a suspected hydraulic failure. The Indian driver completed 8 laps in total throughout practice 1.

As their team-mates set the pace atop the timing sheets, Jenson Button's and Mark Webber’s cars were surrounded by their respective mechanics towards the end of the session. Red Bull mechanics seemed interested on the rear of Webber’s car, with one mechanic filing away at the floor of the Australian’s car.

However, things looked slightly more serious at McLaren, with Button’s car completely stripped down with even the KERs battery removed. It was confirmed that Button's McLaren was suffering from an oil leak, with mechanics crowding around the car trying their best to fix the issue.

As the session came to a close Hamilton was leading the way five tenths ahead of Vettel. With rain forecast for practice 2, this session of dry running could prove pivotal in the quest for success at Sepang.

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

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