The Friday Debrief

By on Friday, March 23, 2012

Lewis Hamilton fastest on Friday

They waited for the rain to come, but thankfully for the teams in Sepang it never made an appearance.  A dry three hours of running was gratefully received after wet weather hampered preparations to last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Nevertheless, the notoriously uncompromising weather in Malaysia could render today’s data gathering sessions obsolete. We’ll just have to wait and see.

It could be another battle between the McLaren drivers. Lewis Hamilton, car sideways and tyre locking, topped both sessions but Jenson Button – who sat out most of FP1 with an oil leak - was close behind him. Hamilton has never had the greatest of records in Malaysia with penalties and mistakes costing him in each of his previous four visits to this circuit. McLaren could be joined in the battle for pole position by Mercedes. Their ‘super DRS’ has given them good straight line speed, with Schumacher and Rosberg close behind their McLaren counterparts. However, on long runs their tyres are degrading at a rapid rate and this will hamper them in the race.

Fernando Alonso was slowest through the speed trap but was 6th in second practice as he attempts to collect more points as Ferrari enter the Malaysian Grand Prix in damage limitation mode. Felipe Massa meanwhile was floundering outside of the top 10 all day as he continues to cut an isolated figure.

Red Bull had another difficult Friday as both drivers struggle with the RB8. Vettel complained that the car was difficult to handle, particularly on the harder compound tyres. Lotus didn’t fare as well in FP2 compared to FP1, but Kimi Raikkonen’s long run pace appeared promising and there’s little evidence to suggest they won’t be inside the top 10.

Spot the Caterham...

STR were the best of the midfield teams as Ricciardo and Vergne ended FP2 inside the top 10 and having set fast times both on light and heavy fuel. Sauber’s reliability could be a key deficiency as Kobayashi spent a significant portion of FP2 stranded in the garage following a gearbox problem. Williams handed track time to Valtteri Bottas in FP1 and he fared well, just eclipsing Pastor Maldonado. Force India had a trying afternoon as Paul di Resta suffered a brake problem, causing him to run wide at the hairpin. The Scot later ran too much on the kerb at Turn 7 and spun on the inside of the track.

Heikki Kovalainen lost time with a hydraulics issue although Vitaly Petrov edged Caterham closer to the midfield. Timo Glock split the aforementioned green machines, while HRT propped up the field as both drivers completed some valuable running, even if Narain Karthikeyan did grind to a halt in the opening session.

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