F1 Malaysia FP2 Results & Report: Webber Remains Fastest, Button Closes the Gap

What Happens When the McLarens Are Closing. or the Red Bulls Are Sandbagging

3:44am EST — The Sepang circuit was mercifully dry but unspeakably hot for the Friday practice sessions of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix. Mark Webber was again fastest in the second session, with McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton splitting the Australian from his German teammate, Sebastian Vettel. Button was just five thousandths slower than Webber, though fifth fastest Michael Schumacher was over a second slower than the leader. Ferrari teammates Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were sixth and ninth fastest, respectively. The most dramatic part of the session was simply the amount of rubber collecting offline, though Pastor Maldonado did his part in leading the early part of the session, then spinning and crashing into a barrier on the pit lane entrance. He returned to the session near the end. Though it was a dry Friday, the clockwork rain of the Sepang circuit is likely to arrive at both the start of qualifying and the race.

Webber dominated the first practice session by more than a second and a half, while Hamilton, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, and Maldonado completed the fastest five. Though Renault had front end issues for both Petrov and Heidfeld, the latter ended the session sixth fastest. Meanwhile, Button and Vettel languished far down the order, in fifteenth and seventeenth, respectively. The former complained heartily over the lack of rear grip while the latter was seemingly content to go more slowly. Both Ferrari drivers spent most of the session working on aero development, though Massa was sixth fastest and Alonso ninth. Both HRT machines completed laps, though Karthikeyan scard many viewers with a heavy plume of smoke while exiting the garage and through the first few turns of the lap early in the session. It was simply extra oil burning off, according to Cosworth.

Renault did not plan to run in the second practice session until the team determined the exact nature of Petrov’s failure, though it was suspected that an upright failed. Alguersuari was the first driver out, with a time straightaway, followed by Perez, di Resta, and Liuzzi following. Times came quickly with the attendant changes in order. Twelve drivers set times just over five minutes into the session, with Kobayashi the early leader, only to be toppled by Schumacher and a host of other drivers. The track temperature was an extreme 120 degrees F, and the first real test of Pirellis under heat.

Ten minutes into the ninety minute session, Hamilton (1:38.987) led the seventeen drivers with posted times. Barrichello, Massa, Schumacher, and Maldonado were the fastest five, while Liuzzi was slowest of all, less than eight seconds slower than Hamilton. Only the Renaults, Sutil, Alonso, and the Virgin Racing teammates had not set a time. Button moved up to the top three, with Alonso joining his teammate in the top ten while Vettel and Webber were in the mid-pack.

Maldonado was fastest around the twenty minute mark, with a lap time nearly two thousandths faster than Hamilton’s. The Venezuelan still led with the session one third gone, followed by Hamilton, Button, Schumacher, Rosberg, Barichello, Massa, Alguersuari, Alonso, and Perez as the top ten, though Barrichello soon went faster than Button and moved into third. D’Ambrosio had not yet set a time, while Vettel and Webber were fourteenth and fifteenth fastest. The times and order, however, soon shuffled as Alonso went quicker and drivers continued to post laps in the Malaysian heat.

Ten minutes later, Schumacher was on top by nearly a second over Maldonado, who was soon bested by Alguersuari. They, plus Sutil and the Red Bull drivers were the only men on track at the time. Vettel was fastest of all in the first two sectors on the softer tires, with his teammate just a tenth slower in the second sector and matchin him in the first, as Vettel went straight to fastest with a 1:37.090, only to have Webber beat him by over two tenths, and the first time in the 1:36s range. Both distinctly slowed on their next lap.

At the halfway point just minutes later, Webber (1:36.876) led Vettel, Schumacher, Alguersuari, Maldonado, Hamilton, Alonso, Barrichello, Button, and Massa as the fastest ten. The Red Bulls were in a league of their own, with Schumacher 1.212s slower than Webber and one second slower than Vettel. Massa, in tenth, was 2.713 slower than the Australian. Meanwhile, Petrov was able to join the fray in his Renault. That left only Heidfeld and D’Ambrosio still in the garage.

Maldonado ended a promising second practice session by hitting a barrier after getting on the grass and spinning around whilst entering the pit lane. Liuzzi was also off the track, having lost drive in some manner after running over a kerb. A bit later, Button was on a charging lap, quickest of all in sectors 1 and 2, and nearly matched Webber’s fast time by going just five thousandths slower and splitting the Red Bull teammates. Minutes later, Karthikeyan’s lap was within the qualifying requirements and the fastest of the “new” teams, though his HRT continued to breath smoke behind it. Meanwhile, Heidfeld joined the session with thirty-six minutes left.

Webber remained fastest when a half hour remained, with Button, Vettel, Schumacher, and Massa the fastest five. Rosberg, Alonso, Alguersuari, Maldonado, and Hamilton completed the top ten, while Heidfeld slotted into eleventh on his second proper lap, moving up to seventh soon thereafter. In the Virgin Racing garage, D’Ambrosio was preparing to set out for the first time in the second session. With over twenty minutes left, Hamilton joined his teammate in splitting Webber and Vettel, slotting into third. The Red Bulls and McLarens were covered by two tenths, while Schumacher in fifth was still a second slower than Vettel in fourth.

As the session ran down, many of the teams were testing out the softer tire and a heavy fuel load, leading to slower times than previously in the session. Most of the drivers, even Maldonado, were out with less than fifteen minutes to go. Only D’Ambrosio had not ventured out after a failure in the first session. With the final minutes taken up with fuel and tire checks, the times at the top did not change.

Final Times for FP2, Malaysian GP:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.876 24
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.881 0.005 30
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:37.010 0.134 23
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.090 0.214 30
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:38.088 1.212 26
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.089 1.213 31
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:38.565 1.689 25
8. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:38.570 1.694 16
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.583 1.707 27
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:38.846 1.970 31
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:38.968 2.092 25
12. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:39.187 2.311 30
13. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:39.267 2.391 17
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:39.398 2.522 29
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:39.603 2.727 34
16. Paul di Resta Force India 1:39.625 2.749 31
17. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:39.809 2.933 28
18. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:40.115 3.239 31
19. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:40.866 3.990 24
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:41.890 5.014 19
21. Narian Karthikeyan HRT 1:43.197 6.321 15
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:43.991 7.115 14
23. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:44.886 8.010 4
24. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing N/A N/A N/A

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