Practice 1: Webber and Red Bull on top early

Mark Webber Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 8 April 2011.

Mark Webber in the Red Bull pit garage during the first free practice in Malaysia

Apr.8 (PVM) Exactly two weeks ago Mark Webber topped the timing sheets at the end of free practice one in Melbourne, today at Sepang he was fastest of all at the end of the first 90 minute session of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

Mark Webber powers past Sepang's distinctive grandstands

Mark Webber powers past Sepang's distinctive grandstands

Arguably a pretty meaningless session where most teams and drivers seemed focussed on testing of sorts, but perhaps most ominously were three disturbingly similar high speed incidents which afflicted Vitaly Petrov and rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Heidfeld was the first victim as his right front jammed or seized up forcing the German to limp home in the Renault R31, with the under tray scraping the track surface. He made it to his pit garage upon which mechanics set about repairing the damage.

Petrov was the next victim, around 75 minutes into the session, of what appeared to be a brake “explosion” which ripped off most of the front left hand side of the Renault R31 and rendered the Russian a passenger until he came to a halt in the gravel. The exact cause was not known at time of writing.

Nick Heidfeld (GER) Lotus Renault GP R31 with a puncture.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 8 April 2011.

Nick Heidfeld drives his stricken Renault down the pitlane

Just over ten minutes later, just short of the chequered flag, Jerome D’Ambrosio suffered a similar fate…. something “exploding” on the front right of the Virgin Racing VR02. He too ending in the gravel.

At the front Webber and Red Bull will be pretty content while their rivals will be hoping they can extract more from their cars as the weekend progresses because the gap at the top of the timing screens from Webber to his nearest rival was a whopping 1.665 seconds.

And his closest rival was Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren MP4-26 and it is (maybe) unlikely that the one second plus gap will remain, but it will no doubt add some pressure on the Woking squad.

Third quickest was Michael Schumacher  in the Mercedes GP and Nico Hulkenberg making it three Mercedes powered cars in the top four spots. The latter on duty in Paul di Resta’s Force India VJM04.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 8 April 2011.

Lewis Hamilton ended the session second fastest

Showing impressive pace during the opening session were the Cosworth powered Williams pair, with Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello ending the session fifth and eighth respectively.

Sixth fastest was Felipe Massa in the Ferrari 150 Italia with team mate Fernando Alonso ninth fastest. The Maranello squad using the opening session as a out and out testing session, to evaluate the best combination of aero bits and exploring set-up options.

The Reds announced on Twitter: “It will be a bit different Friday for both our drivers. This morning session will be mainly dedicated to aerodynamic tests. The crew is painting the front of the cars with the flow wiz, which is used to understand the flow of the air on the wings and bodywork. The weather is as usual, very hot and humid. At the moment we have 28 C of air temperature, 32 C track temperature.”

Nico Rosberg, who finished third here last year, was tenth fastest in his Mercedes MGPW02.

Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 8 April 2011.

Brake smoke engulfs Sebastian Vettel in the pits

Australia winner Sebastian Vettel was down in 17th after a session spent in test mode, he appeared to be on a flyer late on in the session but the yellow flags forced him to scupper what coul have been a top time. He is sure to end the day closer to the summit of the timing screens.

Toro Rosso reserve Daniel Ricciardo was fractionally faster than regualr driver Jaime Alguersuari, who ended 11 th and 12th respectively.

Jarno Trulli ended 16th best in the Lotus T128 with reserve Davide Valsecchi, in place of Heikki Kovalainen,ended 21st on the timing screens.

The HRT pair were again out of the 107% zone and frustration mounting for Narain Karthikeyan
who hardly did any laps before huge plumes of smoke emanated from his F111.

It was a busy 90 minutes at Sepang and perhaps the only other notable aspects of the session were the numerous off track excursions which included the likes of Alonso and Hamilton. The nuances  of the Malaysian circuit – a real race track, as opposed to a temporary street facility – is already challenging the best race drivers on the planet.

Friday, 8 April – Free Practice 1 Results

P

No

Driver

Team

Time

Gap

1 2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:37.651
2 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.316 1.665
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:39.791 2.140
4 15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:40.377 2.726
5 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1:40.443 2.792
6 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:40.453 2.802
7 9 Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:40.525 2.874
8 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:40.581 2.930
9 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:40.601 2.950
10 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:40.646 2.995
11 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:40.734 3.083
12 18 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:40.748 3.097
13 19 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:40.770 3.119
14 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.872 3.221
15 4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.927 3.276
16 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1:41.620 3.969
17 1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:41.627 3.976
18 17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.642 3.991
19 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.154 4.503
20 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.540 4.889
21 20 Davide Valsecchi Lotus-Renault 1:44.054 6.403
22 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1:45.228 7.577
23 22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1:46.267 8.616
24 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:47.932 10.281