Lewis Hamilton set the pace on the opening day of the Malaysian Grand Prix in sweltering conditions.
With weather conditions unpredictable, teams worked on qualifying and long run programmes to cover the bases.
The times were set on the softer of the two Bridgestone tyre compounds. In several cases drivers found that the fastest lap came on the third lap after giving the tyres a breather on the second lap.
Hamilton did this as part of 18 laps in total on the soft tyre and was lapping in the low 1m 39s at the end. Vettel did 13 laps on the soft and set his fastest time on the fourth flying lap. Alguesuari did a 26 lap long run on the soft in the afternoon, the run started with laps in the 1m 40 range, came down into 1m 39s then went back into the mid 1m 40s, indicating that the soft can hold on despite the degradation.
Red Bull have some concerns this afternoon on Mark Webber’s car after it stopped on track with a suspected engine failure. He hasn’t had a run on the soft tyres yet.
The McLaren rear wing looks like it will give its drivers quite an advantage this weekend on Sepang’s two long straight. Hamilton was fastest through the speed trap at 303km/h, 6km/h faster than the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
The afternoon session was held in dry conditions, but there was rain either side of it. A heavy downpour at 4pm hinted at what might be expected for Sunday’s race.
With Malaysia being a back to back race with Australia, there are not many updates on the cars, apart from developments to improve cooling, such as gills in the bodywork.
Malaysia Free Practice
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.175 27 Laps
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:34.441 + 0.266 28
3. Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.443 + 0.268 30
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.538 + 0.363 24
5. Schumacher Mercedes 1:34.674 + 0.499 30
6. Kubica Renault 1:35.148 + 0.973 34
7. Alonso Ferrari 1:35.581 + 1.406 34
8. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:35.660 + 1.485 39
9. Petrov Renault 1:35.872 + 1.697 20
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:35.957 + 1.782 32