F1 Malaysia: Friday Practice 1; Hamilton Quickest as Mercedes & Renault Step Up


What Happens When Practice Still Means Little

11:51pm EST — Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the first practice of the Malaysian GP weekend, with Nico Rosberg just beating Jenson Button to second fastest at the end.  The battle of the teammates continued with Michael Schumacher fourth fastest, and Robert Kubica rounding out the top five in a thoroughly routine practice session in the South Asian heat.  Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were sixth and ninth, respectively, while Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the session eighth and eleventh fastest.

Two reserve drivers made their Formula1 debuts during Friday’s first practice, as first of all runners on-track was Fairuz Fauzy at home in Malaysia for Lotus (taking Heikki Kovalainen’s place) while Paul di Resta took Tonio Liuzzi’s place at Force India.  After a half our of the hour and a half session, Jaime Alguersuari had posted the fastest time (1:37.849), leading the other six posted times of di Resta, Fauzy, Trulli, Chandhok, Senna, and de la Rosa.  At that point, all the teams had run at least one lap, though the leading teams had not yet returned to the circuit, presumably waiting for it to rubber in.

Halfway through the session, Hamilton led Button with the fastest time (1:34.921, seven tenths off the circuit lap record set in 2004 by Juan Pablo Montoya).  Kubica, Rosberg, and Webber rounded out the top five, no more than a half second slower than Hamilton.  With thirty minutes left, only Michael Schumacher had not posted a time, and had only completed one lap.  Meanwhile, the teams had closed up some of the times, with the slowest runner (Karun Chandhok) now only seven seconds behind the still-leading Hamilton.  Force India’s di Resta and Sutil were complaining of tires graining quickly.  Ten minutes later, Schumacher posted the third fastest time of the session, four tenths off of Hamilton’s time.

When fifteen minutes remained, Red Bull decided to post a bit of a (quite correct) rant on Twitter, “Sunny and 29°C. This bears so little relation to what we’ll get for the race, we might as well hold the practice sessions at Silverstone.”
In truth, the practice sessions are notoriously difficult to use as a marker for the rest of the weekend.  Better analysis will be available after the second practice session, but the real test will be in qualifying on Saturday.

Final Times from FP1 for the Malaysian GP:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Hamilton 1:34.921 19
2. Rosberg 1:35.106 +.185 19
3. Button 1:35.207 +.286 25
4. Schumacher 1:35.225 +.304 14
5. Kubica 1:35.402 +.481 22
6. Webber 1:35.479 +1.034 22
7. Sutil 1:35.955 +1.038 20
8. Alonso 1:35.959 +1.122 20
9. Vettel 1:36.043 +1.179 19
10. Buemi 1:36.100 +1.530 20
11. Massa 1:36.451 +1.451 22
12. Kobayashi 1:36.503 +1.582 28
13. Alguersuari 1:36.645 +1.724 18
14. Petrov 1:36.712 +1.791 9
15. de Resta 1:36.891 +1.970 25
16. de la Rosa 1:36.899 +1.978 24
17. Hulkenberg 1:37.802 +2.881 27
18. Barrichello 1:38.278 +3.357 18
19. Trulli 1:39.460 +4.539 21
20. Glock 1:39.755 +4.834 17
21. di Grassi 1:40.159 +5.238 25
22. Fauzy 1:40.721 +5.800 19
23. Senna 1:41.832 +6.911 27
24. Chandhok 1:41.966 +7.045 24
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