Mercedes F1’s early season strength was again evident with German Nico Rosberg going fastest in Friday Free Practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix as a number of Formula One teams suffered teething problems on a tricky day.
Rosberg, who won the season opening race in Australia two weeks ago, clocked a best time of 1:39.909 seconds in the second session at a steamy, slippery Sepang circuit, where track temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius, testing the cooling systems on the new V6 turbo engines to the max.
Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton had clocked the best time of 1:40.691 in the opening session despite sliding off the track earlier on Friday, the Briton was only fourth in the second session, with a 1:40.051 after more grip issues.
The 2008 world champion complained on the team radio after his first venture into the gravel that the circuit was “like driving on marbles”. With less downforce and more torque and power, on the new cars taking some getting used to.
Kimi Raikkonen was second quickest on Friday in both sessions for Ferrari with a best time just 0.035 seconds behind Rosberg, with team mate Fernando Alonso fifth with a 1:40.103.
The Spanish double world champion had led the timesheets in the opening half of the first session, before making an error and spinning at turn eight. He and his engineers then concentrated on system and balance checks with the result that his times slipped back.
For Raikkonen it was a turn around of form, as at the season opener in Melbourne he did not finish any session ahead of teammate Alonso.
World champion Sebastian Vettel was third quickest in the second session with a best time of 1:39.970 seconds, but Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told Skysports that the team were having problems with a fuel sensor that required changing.
Perhaps most notable was the fact that a mere 0.061 of a second separated the top three, while the top 11 were within a second of the top time. Last year, at the end of the same FP2 session, only the top seven were within a second.
Fuel flow rates led to Vettel’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo being disqualified from his home grand prix in Melbourne last week, a verdict the team have appealed.
The Australian was seventh quickest in the second session on Friday and ended the day by taking a run over the grass.
He was behind Felipe Massa of Williams who also took a spin at turn eight, like his former Ferrari team mate Alonso, while Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso also had similar spins.
McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen had an up-and-down day with his car stopping on the track at turn 15 in the opening session before the Danish rookie bemoaned oversteering in the second session, as he finished well down the grid.
It was nothing compared to the problems of Lotus, however, with Pastor Maldonado not even making it out for the second session after engineers worked on his car which billowed smoke in the opening 90 minute run, before he could register a time.
Romain Grosjean’s Lotus faired little better with his car stopping at turn 10 also without him setting a time before his second session was interrupted by another problem with his team telling him to bring the car back to the garage in second gear.
Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi was also absent in the second session because of electronic control issues on his Caterham, while Max Chilton also missed most of the precious running time after going off the track after only six minutes. (Reuters)
Subbed by AJN.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Free Practice 2 – Friday, 28 March 2014
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.970||0.061||30|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:40.276||0.367||29|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:40.691||0.782||34|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.671||1.762||25|
|21||10||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham-Renault||No time||0|
|22||13||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus-Renault||No time||0|