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Hamilton tops times on Day 1 in Sepang
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Hamilton tops times on Day 1 in Sepang
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Apr 2010   |  9:27 am GMT  |  71 comments

Lewis Hamilton set the pace on the opening day of the Malaysian Grand Prix in sweltering conditions.

Photo: McLaren


The McLaren driver was on top in both sessions, setting a fastest time in the afternoon of 1m 34.175, ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. The track temperature hit 51 degrees early in the afternoon session.

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

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71 Comments
  1. Early days but the Maccas seem to be on the pace – so difficult to tell on Fridays tho’.

    Hoping for rain to mix it up again :)

  2. Jake says:

    I know this is only the first practice but I’m surprised to see the Ferraris so far down the time sheet.
    At the same time pleased to see the Mercedes guys up there.

    Here’s hoping Webber can get sorted for tomorrow, but this is the last thing Red Bull wanted.

    1. Kenny says:

      Other news sources are saying that Alonso spent the session doing long runs on full tanks, and Massa had some mysterious problem with the bottom of his car….

      1. Gareth says:

        It wasn’t mysterious. He had off track excursions in practice 1 so probably damaged the underside of the Ferrari

    2. Enrico Fiore says:

      could it be the Ferraris are running wet setups in anticipation of Sunday’s weather?

  3. Mr G says:

    As I said before in your blog James, McLaren is the car to beat this year becasue they have a very good baseline and they are capable to manufacture upgrades faster than everybodyelse.
    LH and JB will be very fats in this race and with the speed advantage in the straight they will be difficult to catch if they are in front.
    I can see McLaren having a 1,2 at this race followed by Red Bulls and Renault with Ferrari struggling.
    Ferrari might try to qualify as ahead as possible and compromise the race of everybody behind them using little very little wing for the race

    1. Michael Siao says:

      I don’t see a Mclaren 1-2. It’s still Friday and I can recall that the Red Bulls and the Ferraris were doing long runs on Fridays from Bahrain and Australia. I still think Red Bull are quickest followed by Ferrari then Mclaren and Mercedes.

    2. MZR says:

      I somewhat agree that McLaren good at developing the car. That is one of the reasons they are a big brand in the sport. However, maybe your prediction is a bit too optimistic based on the evidence so far. They were pretty fast in the practice sessions in Melbourne as well. But quali results proved otherwise. Unless there is a huge twist in weather change or safety car issue I don’t see McLaren winning the race. However, either one of us could be right. Let’s see what happens on Sunday.

  4. R.B. says:

    McLaren did not expect to be strong on this circuit. Does that mean that teams enter each new venue “blind” to what to expect? Or maybe other teams are running heavier.

    Certainly the trend of RedBull exiting and McLaren entering the title fight is continuing.

    Looking forward to another rain race. Dry is too boring this season, until proven otherwise.

    Cheers for the great web site.

    1. A.K. says:

      Who says they are that strong at this circuit? This is only P1. They were leading P1 in Melbourne too but ended up being 7/10 of a second off the Pole time in qualifying.

      1. krad says:

        But their race pace was good and theres every chance both cars would have been on the podium if it hadn’t been for webber

      2. A.K. says:

        More through attrition and RB making a meal of strategy than Macca ultimate pace. They were slower than both RB and Ferrari in Bahrain and Melbourne, and as Alonso said, not much would have changed in the last four days.

      3. MZR says:

        Exactly. All we have to do is to look at the last two races. Even if Lewis was a full second faster than the nearest rival I still wouldn’t put my money on him. I’m not convinced that the whole McLaren package (except the ‘F-duct’) is strong enough to earn pole this weekend. You can’t really tell anything about Lewis or McLaren until Q3 & so far we have seen only a couple of practices where Lewis didn’t have to worry about managing the tyre for 50 laps. Plus the others are running with heavy fuel for sure

      4. krad says:

        I agree about the qualy pace, bit the race both McLaren’s were very good, maybe not the best, but its all very marginal. Pace means nothing though its the results that count so reliability and strategy are just as important. After all its been said many times, To finish first you must first finish. Something of an Achilles for Newey cars over the past decade or so.

  5. Martin P says:

    Hi James,

    unrelated question but nowhere relevant to post it I’m afraid!

    I’ve read stories today about the outboard mirrors being banned.

    But why, given that F1 is the supposed pinnacle of technology, don’t the cars have side cameras with small screens in the cockpit or side radars giving green/amber/red lights on the wheel? You can get both those systems on road cars now, yet formula 1 can’t get a mirror sorted out! Surely it’s out of date technology?!

    Is there a rule that says “thou shalt have a piece of reflective glass” or do they just not want to lose the mirror housing as an aero device?

    1. Michael Siao says:

      Interesting question there. Would be interesting if they had screens in the cockpit.

    2. krad says:

      Cameras and screens are heavier than mirrors and provide no real advantages, and are prone to going wrong.

    3. MZR says:

      Good question Martin. Read a few stories about the mirror issues already. Strange stuff hey!!! I’m looking forward to the answer as well

    4. DNYC says:

      Weight, space in the cockpit to fit the 2 LCD screens and the FIA will not allow it in the current regulations (see below).

      I have designed rear view camera systems for light rail and the quality is no where near that of a mirror (mostly trying to see a good image on a small monitor, try watching a Youtube video of an on-board car cam on an iPhone at arms length to get an idea).

      You will need LCD’s around 4″ to see anything, maybe they could fit either side of the steering wheel, just below the windshield?

      You will need to mount the cameras so it would pass the regulations too, maybe the sidepods. You could make the housing smaller than the mirror of course but will still need something, similar to the on-board cameras they have now.

      So if you could find the space and change the regs, it would be feasible but not sure it would net you any gains.

      14.3 Rear view mirrors : All cars must have at least two mirrors mounted so that the driver has visibility to the rear and both sides of the car.

      The reflective surface of each mirror must be at least 150mm wide, this being maintained over a height of at least 50mm. Additionally, each corner may have a radius no greater than 10mm.

      No part of the reflective surface may be less than 250mm from the car centre line or more than 750mm from the rear of the cockpit entry template.

      1. Steve Rogers says:

        Sounds like “visibility” needs one of those “clarifications”.

      2. Martin P says:

        I agree that LCD’s wouldn’t be much use…. but everything I’ve ever heard about mirrors is that they’re pretty useless, regardless of positioning, due to vibration and size.

        But why not the “radar” systems you can get in road cars that gives a green LED if it’s clear and a red if it’s not, with an audible tone too? Surely you could add that to supplement the mirrors and it’d allow some reaction to a car shunting up the inside either under/out of control. If it keeps you in the game it’s been worth it.

        I know it all sounds over complex, but surely the mirrors are too simple in such complex machinery?

        There simply has to be evolution and innovation beyond something a budgerigar can use to better effect than a Formula 1 driver.

  6. Jeremy Bolton says:

    Oh dear … both Red Bulls had some issues in both practice sessions today, with Webber’s suspected engine failure being the most serious. I was one of the people saying Vettel’s problems were just down to poor luck, given that both issues could (arguably) be put down to supplier’s faults. But now … third race in a row? We’ll see what happens on Saturday and for the race, but I’m getting to the point where I’m expecting some kind of mechanical issue.

    1. Michael Siao says:

      Actually not both of them were faults by the suppliers. It was not a brake failure in Australia but a loose wheel nut. That has already been clarified by Red Bull and Brembo.

    2. MZR says:

      Unreliable cars cannot be favourite to win the championship. It’s a shame that the chassis is great aero, design and driver combination wise; but reliability issue is killing the team. Even if Red Bull manage to do well in qualifying, I’m not convinced they will do any good in the actual race. I’m starting to feel that the car suits one lap only rather than a 60 lap race

      1. Jeremy Bolton says:

        Yeah, agreed. At the risk of putting yet more hyperbole out there, I’m getting the impression that this race at Malaysia is really going to crucial for the team. If all goes relatively well and both cars finish top 6, perhaps also on the podium, without any mechanical issues then I think there will be an audible “phew” heard all the way from Kuala Lumpur.

      2. tank says:

        I agree to some extent that they can’t be favourites to win. That’s not to say I’m not rooting for Vettel, but the way things have gone last year and so far this, its starting to feel like the Kimi/Macca partnership.

        A real pity to watch talent and effort go unrewarded.

      3. A.K. says:

        Well Vettel had himself to blame and not just the car on a number of occasions last year.

  7. alex m says:

    With the slight top speed advantage, does this mean it looks like the McLarens will be able to overtake at Sepang ?

    It was interesting seeing the Ferraris not really going for a time, and the Red Bull looking sickly, again, and, for yet another reason.

    I am no great fan of predictions, but it does look like RBR will loose out again this year with a fast but unreliable car.

    I wonder if there are some wry smiles up the pitlane at McLaren, when Newey was there they were known for producing fast but unreliable cars, arguably loosing WDCs due to this.

    1. Patrickl says:

      Remember where Red Bull were before Newey? Without Newey Red Bull wouldn’t even be competing for the race win let alone the WDC.

      It’s the whole team that is simply not used to being at the front.

      People complain about McLarens pit stop error, but Webber really should have won that race in Australia. His late stop (2 laps later) dropped him from the lead back to P6. Had they pulled him in 1 or 2 laps sooner, he would have stayed in front of Button and would have been ideally placed to win the race.

      It just goes wrong on all levels there. The drivers make many mistakes (in 2009 Vettel threw away 4 races due to driver errors), this year the cars fail often too (bad mechanics? or bad design?) and the team makes plenty strategic errors (they could/should have won 2 or 3 more races of the first 7 last year and this year again they got it wrong)

      I read an interview with Newey were he rather sadly acknowledged that they could have gotten a whole lot more from the start of the 2009 season and then the title might have been theirs.

      Must be so frustrating to built such a good car and then se the people around you fumble it away.

      I guess the whole team are still rookies at this WDC business still.

      I thought they got the hang of it at the end of 2009, but maybe that was simply because their car was so much faster than anybody elses. Can’t do much wrong when your car is the fastest by half a second.

    2. Michael Siao says:

      From previous practice sessions in Bahrain and Australia, Ferrari had usually done long heavy runs on Fridays and spent Saturday practice for the low fuel runs. I doubt that they are behind Mclaren on outright pace.

      Red Bull kicking themselves in the @$$. I also think they will loose out due to reliability issues.

  8. Thalasa says:

    I imagine the question for McLaren here is whether the advantage they should gain from those two long straights, could compensate the comparative disadvantage they suffer on the high speed corners. I believe for what I’ve heard that Ferrari and specially Red Bull are more balanced on high speed corners than McLaren.

    The end of the long straights give Hamilton a new opportunity to display his aggressiveness. I’m looking forward to see a close fight between him and Alonso.

    1. Satish says:

      Looking forward to the same here! However, given how fast Lewis’ tires went off in Australia once he got behind Fernando, I don’t expect to see any battle between these two to last more than a few laps.

      1. GomerPile says:

        I think it’ll be like Bahrain – a tale of two (or maybe three) sectors. The Ferrari’s and Red Bulls very quick in the quick-corner sectors, with the McLarens very quick on the two long straights.

        I’m a McLaren fan, so I hope the boys do well – although I could live with a poor quali for them, so they can fight through the field with their top speed advantage. And if we can get Webber back the grid a bit as well, we could be in for a proper race …

        And to top it off, monsoon anyone?

    2. Zobra Wambleska says:

      From what I’ve read, this year McLaren does not suffer in the high speed corners, but more in the slow corners.

  9. kowalsky says:

    it looks like hamilton is going to score his first win of the year.

    1. MZR says:

      Too early to say mate. What I have figured out so far this season is that it is extremely important to look after the tyres because the drivers have to make them last throughout the long stints. McLaren was pretty fast in Melbourne practice sessions as well. But qualifying told us the different story. Because of the rule changes tyres are the key to this year’s championship. Hamilton’s driving style doesn’t suit the tyres so far. If you also look at the Sepang circuit you’ll also find out that this track will most definitely be the hardest of the lot in terms of tyre strategy. Because of the long straight as well as many difficult high speed corners the tyres will degrade super fast. My bet on soft tyres will be graining like crazy with 5 laps. So, to be smart I won’t put money on Hamilton this early. Cheers

      1. Kinkas says:

        Totally agree MZR. Look at JB’s tyres during practice. LH will blow his tyres.

      2. Marcello says:

        What are you babbling about? Lewis had no issues with his tires in Melbourne,he said it himself after the race, now who are we going to believe, a armchair wanna be F1 oficionado like yourself, or Lewis? and you’re clearly aren’t smart enough for not putting your money on Lewis for a race win comes Sunday.

      3. kowalsky says:

        i did. And i am an arm chair aficionado. Do i get different treatment?
        Now being serious, all this thing about hamilton being rough on the tyres is being blown out of proportion. This year tyres are bullet proof, and hamilton won’t have any problems with them.
        Let’s hope we see a good fight between him and alonso, it’s what everybody is waiting for.

      4. Kinkas says:

        I think won’t have any problems with tyres means he won’t blow them off, as happened in Hungary(?)/Turkey(?) 2008. But they will definitely fade faster than most of the leading pack, due to his agressive driving style as he will try to overtake cars ahead of him… I put my money on that, because he will be behind at least both Red Bull and Ferrari drivers (rain not playing its cards during qualy).

        Regarding the fight, I don’t mind him fighting with Vettel, Alonso, Schummi or second drivers at top teams… as long he doesn’t win it!

  10. Erico says:

    Good start to the weekend. Fingers crossed so Hamilton can keep it up.

  11. Ginger says:

    I expected Hamilton to do well this weekend after all that happened at the last race. He will be super motivated to put one over JB and the rest of the field if that is possible.

    Added to that is rain towards the end of the race, should be very good and maybe a classic.

    Ginger.

  12. manos says:

    hey james!how are you?
    i hope rain will come on sunday.
    i would like to know about other teams too,like williams,FI,torro rosso.
    f1 isnt just top teams.
    cheers!

    1. kowalsky says:

      you are asking for a miracle.

      1. manos says:

        well miracles do happen!!

  13. Mani says:

    James I saw the Mclaren ‘F-duct’ on the Renaults in first practice today. The opening hole was located very similarly to where the Mclaren’s one is; just in front of the driver on the chassis.

    That would explain why Renault are so high up on the speed traps. I’m surprised that Ferrari and Red Bull have been quite slow to react compared to the ‘lesser’ teams like Sauber and Renault!

    1. bill says:

      The opening is for cooling purposes, how could it possible be an f-duct, their engine cover isn’t even connected with the rear wing

    2. MZR says:

      Ferrai is leading both championship at this stage & Red Bull is still the fastest car in the first two races. But trust me they will both come up with the ‘F-duct’ stronger than McLaren. That is why they are taking time. Don’t count Merc out either. The 2nd half of the season will be a lot different. Good to see Renault doing well. After all Renault is a big name motor sport & brand like Renault is important in F1. They certaintly have a driver that’s super talented to develop their car as well. So they need good enough results to stay in the sport

      1. neil says:

        [quote]But trust me they will both come up with the ‘F-duct’ stronger than McLaren. [/quote]

        Sorry forgive me, I won’t trust someone with your bias’s.

        They will not produce a better F-Duct just as they was both unable to develop a better Kers system.

    3. juan says:

      That is not an f-duct, they have had the same hole there since the R26 days.

    4. kowalsky says:

      i thinks they said a while ago, that there are no plans to develop one.

  14. momo says:

    well look like mclaren is in for podium at least lewis have been very fast in the fast corners aswell but im hoping for the shower so i dont fall asleep on sunday,rosberg will be the one to look out for

    1. kowalsky says:

      he is going to be outperformed by schumacher for the first time in 2010.

  15. PaulL says:

    I’m surprised the FIA can actually unilaterally decide that side-mirrors are banned in-season. Doesn’t a rule change usually need unanimous agreement under the concorde?

    1. BobTheBuilder says:

      Not for safety related issues

    2. tank says:

      I think it might be different if its a safety issue. Just a guess though, which could be wrong.

  16. Babi says:

    Hamilton will shine come Sunday! Most aggressive driver on the grid by far! entertainer-in-chief!

  17. Michael Siao says:

    James, this is an off topic question.

    Do you think that the Renault is running a F-duct? Because in this picture http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/kubi_rena_sepa_2010-1.jpg
    there seems to be an intake. Tell me your opinion if that’s for cooling or thats a similar system on the Mclaren.

    1. Michael Siao says:

      Just an addition. After I looked at the picture again i noticed that the shark fin is not connected to the rear wing so I would think that it’s for cooling. What’s your say?

    2. James Allen says:

      No, the find doesn’t reach the rear wing. Renault’s new front wing in Australia is a big step forward for them

      1. A.K. says:

        That looks like the most developed front wing on the whole grid. Some of them are certainly getting closer to the pre-2009 regulation wings, what with the curvy planes and elements that want to touch the nose, as opposed to the ‘Group C’ looking front wings that were normal under these regulations.

  18. Andy Thomlinson says:

    Looking at the stats from the first two races Ferrari and Redbull didnt start to show to their true pace until Saturday morning. I would guess that Vettel will most likely be on pole with either Webber or Alonso alongside him.

    Mclaren have a much better race pace and I would think Lewis will be looking to score a strong podium here this weekend.

    Although all this will matter none if the heavens open up!

  19. Dieter says:

    Hamilton is more like a combination of Schumacher and Senna, I remember when Irvine was outside top 10, Ferrari comes out and they say the car in not OK, but come quali, Michael will wring every bit of of the car and be on top 3 surprising Ferrari and other teams.

    I really believe great history is being made with Hamilton, he knows how to deliver when the chips are down.

    My wish is to have Alonso, Hamilton and Schumacher on the podium in any order.

    However, i still believe Red Bull is the fastest car and if they get the reliability issue out of the windows, they would be unstoppable. It will be like reading a great comic book sitting down once the season ends.

  20. irish conor says:

    right james call it for once. who is going to be on pole and who is going to win. id like to hear your thoughts on these topcs more

    1. James Allen says:

      I reckon Vettel is due the result he has been denied in Bahrain and Australia

      1. Joe Tanto says:

        Eddie Jordan commented on BBC red button coverage of Practice that he isn’t convinced by Red Bull spark plug. Given the comments by Ron Dennis referred to here, about Red Bull fuel tank size, if Vettel keeps going will we find out if they are marginal on fuel.
        Thats something we were robbed of knowing in Oz, rain and safety cars notwithstanding.
        If Vettel takes pole and leads race from the front then slows down near the end it will be quite a shocker, but I can see it happening.

      2. kowalsky says:

        but webber finished the race in australia. And he wasn’t looking after saving fuel at all.
        I don’t think they have an issue with the tank, but may be in baharain they just put a little less fuel than necessary.

      3. Kinkas says:

        Spot on Kowalsky. Great approach indeed. Anyway, we will find out in due course. But anyway, I am hoping for a RBR win this weekend (due to someone else’s misfortune while leading the pack) to spice things up.

  21. Lee K says:

    Mercedes have a duct on both sides of the nose, directly behind the suspension arm, is this a ‘F’ type duct or just there for cooling? I realise they have no shark fin, so cannot be for the same reason as Mclaren have a duct, to stall the rear wing, but what if it is feeding the diffuser? There was a lot of work going on around the diffuser on Schumi’s car in the first practice.

  22. Radovan says:

    Rain! Rain! Rain!

  23. Pedro says:

    With respect to the F duct, I thought that an exact copy of this was now impossible for the teams as the cockpit cannot be modified after crash testing,and the F duct needs a hole in it?

    I wonder if Virgin will leave a hole when they go for certification to fix their fuel tank issue, giving them the ability to adopt in the future?

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