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Malaysian GP Day 1: Mark Webber sets the pace for Red Bull
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Malaysian GP Day 1: Mark Webber sets the pace for Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Apr 2011   |  3:28 pm GMT  |  68 comments

Mark Webber set the fastest time in both practice sessions on the first day of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

The Red Bull driver headed Jenson Button by 0.005s in the second session, with Lewis Hamilton third and Sebastian Vettel fourth as Red Bull had the KERS on its car working today. The rest of the field was over a second behind, with Ferrari admitting that they are a little off the pace again.

Still out front (Photo: Red Bull)


Sepang has always been a strong track for Webber – he once put a Jaguar on the front row and has outqualified team mate Sebastian Vettel for the last two seasons, although Vettel famously beat him off the line last year and went on to win. After his disappointing showing last time out in Melbourne, this weekend offers Webber an opportunity to come back strong to try to stem Vettel’s progress towards a second consecutive world title.

The afternoon session was 15 degrees hotter than the morning session as track temperatures headed towards 50 degrees, although they dropped as the 90 minute session went on.

Pirelli tested out a more durable experimental compound during practice, something more approaching the old Bridgestones and possible conservative option for certain potential situations in future.

But most drivers were keen to spend time evaluating the soft tyre over long runs, to see how far it might go in the race. The Pirelli tyres shred, throwing off chunks of rubber and at the end of the session there was a substantial amount of “marbles” off line, which will discourage overtaking on race day.

The degradation on the tyres was very large; the difference between the first lap and later laps of a run was as much as eight seconds, even for the front runners, indicating that predictions of three of four pit stops for Sunday may prove accurate. With the Pirellis it is the rear tyres which go first. The soft tyre has a performance edge of around a second over the hard tyre, which makes it the tyre of choice for the race as well as qualifying, but the degradation is steep and getting them to last more than ten laps will be a challenge for many. This complicates the picture and getting the right strategy for the race will be tricky. Once again the cars which are gentlest on their tyres will be in the best shape.

Renault’s drivers had a frustrating day after a suspension problem in the morning led to both of them missing the opening part of the second session, “We quickly established that the two failed items had come from the same material batch and that nothing from this batch had run prior to today,” said technical director James Allison. Once satisfied with the reasons, the team sent the drivers out for the half way through the second session and both managed to get 16 laps in.

Pastor Maldonado had a bizarre incident, losing the rear end of the car after touching grass on the way into the pit lane, the car spun and hit the barrier. Tonio Liuzzi stopped out on track in the revised Hispania with the new front wing, after bottoming out heavily on a kerb, which stopped the engine.

Heikki Kovalainen also suffered today; it was his turn to give up his car to reserve driver Davide Valsecchi in the morning and then in the afternoon he had a differential failure after just one run which sidelined him for the day. Jerome d’Ambrosio had a suspension faliure in the morning which put him out for the afternoon.

MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX, Friday Free Practice 2
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m36.876s 24 laps
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m36.881s + 0.005 30 laps
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m37.010s + 0.134 23 laps
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m37.090s + 0.214 30 laps
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.088s + 1.212 26 laps
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.089s + 1.213 31 laps
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.565s + 1.689 25 laps
8. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m38.570s + 1.694 16 laps
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.583s + 1.707 27 laps
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m38.846s + 1.970 31 laps
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m38.968s + 2.092 25 laps
12. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m39.187s + 2.311 30 laps
13. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m39.267s + 2.391 17 laps
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.398s + 2.522 29 laps
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.603s + 2.727 34 laps
16. Paul di Resta Force India 1m39.625s + 2.749 31 laps
17. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m39.809s + 2.933 28 laps
18. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m40.115s + 3.239 31 laps
19. Timo Glock Virgin 1m40.866s + 3.990 24 laps
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m41.890s + 5.014 19 laps
21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m43.197s + 6.321 15 laps
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m43.991s + 7.115 14 laps
23. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m44.886s + 8.010 4 laps

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68 Comments
  1. H-Bomb says:

    James, can you see any of the front runners using the prime in Q3. This would give them a greater window of opportunity if it rained and maybe save them a pit stop.

  2. kaushal says:

    Saving tyres during weekend will be the key for successful race.

    Red Bull Still looks strong. I think Malaysia will show the true picture.

    I looked funny to me when Narain wrote on twitter:
    Thanks god,car is within 107% rule

    1. Mark m says:

      I would have to disagree tyre wear seems an issue.

  3. David Smith says:

    Interesting set of sessions. Jenson Button said that they went one way on set up in the first session, realised it was wrong and then went another way which got them the performance we have seen so far. I’m wondering whether for all the trials McLaren have had, they actually do have a car they understand very well indeed. That might explain Martin Whitmarsh’s comments about how they’d got a lot of useful info out of testing even though they hadn’t unlocked the performance. If their car matches their simulator very well, then they might well be able to close up on Red Bull very quickly indeed.

  4. Lilla My says:

    I’m so worried about Ferrari especially that they admit they’re having troubles. I don’t get what happened… they seemed up there during winter testing and now they are struggling.

    It seems that Ferrari’s and McLaren’s roles have reversed totally lately when compared to each other.
    It’s still good to see Webber back on pace :).

    It still should be an interesting race, I hope for some rain – it did make Malaysian GP more exciting last year (the qualifying thriller!) and in 2009. Hopefully we can see some unexpected results this year too. That’s always fun to watch :).

    1. Galapago555 says:

      Hi Lila.

      I here share your worries. I simply can’t understand what have they been doing all winter – it seems that they have been so cautious to make a very reliable car that at the end of the day they forgot to make it fast!

      Totally off topic, James, maybe you could suggest that comment leavers use the “Website” box to insert their Twitter accounts – maybe we could meet this way and share comments and thoughts during the qualy and races.

      1. Lilla My says:

        I like that Twitter idea too! I guess Ferrari were so preoccupied with reliability that they forgot about adding a tiny factor called “speed”.

      2. Galapago555 says:

        So what’s your address? You’ll find mine if you click on the “Website” box. ;-)

      3. Lilla My says:

        I’m totally new to Twitter, but I’m following you now ;-)

    2. AlexD says:

      Why are you worried about Ferrari? I am sure that all employees can afford a super decent living…it is just work…and just sport. Nothing changes…whether they win or not…

      1. Lilla My says:

        Good point!
        So in other words: I’m worried about my own nerves and mood because of Ferrari’s doings ;-).

      2. AlexD says:

        Are you from Warsaw?

      3. Lilla My says:

        To your last question – yes, I’m from Warsaw :).

      4. AlexD says:

        Me too:-) Cool…

    3. goferet says:

      @Lilly My Oh but you should be worried about Ferrari because before Jean Todt & his posse took over the Red Dragon, Ferrari had gone a whopping 21 years without a WDC to write home to.

    4. Jeff says:

      Ferrari seem to have gone for a safe design, derived from last year’s car, while McLaren look like they have tried to push the limits. I hope that McLaren’s efforts are rewarded, because stretching the engineering boundaries is what F1 is all about.

      If they don’t get more inventive, Ferrari could see themselves finishing 5th in the constructor’s championship. Renault and Mercedes are both coming up fast. Given Petrov’s performances early last year, I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but it seems that both teams have two fast guys to gather points (though Michael has yet to show that he can match Nico’s pace in the Mercedes).

      Webber and Vettel are about equal on pace, and while Jenson seems to struggle to match Lewis’ qualifying pace, his race pace is about equal.

      In contrast, Massa doesn’t seem to have recovered yet from being effectively told he was ‘Numero Due’ last year. While Alonso may still place high in the driver’s championship, one against two isn’t a recipe for winning the constructor’s championship.

      1. Lilla My says:

        I would still wait before judging Petrov. Nothing against him, but he had only one (ok – two if we count Abu Dhabi) good race (+ pretty good qualifying session today) and considering the amount of errors he did last year it’s too early for me to praise him too much. Of course he can turn out to be a good driver this year, but for me it’s still too early to give any final judgement about his level of performance.

        I think it was Vettel who said lately that it’s easier to make a fast car reliable than to make a reliable car fast. Unfortunatelly it seems that Ferrari opted for reliability more which isn’t paying off at the moment. But I will wait for some upgrades hopeing they can do something about it.
        Re Massa – I don’t know what it is and (IMHO) the whole 2010 team orders thing explaining why he’s doing not that well is too easy. He’s been off the pace since the beginning of 2010 TBH (I so don’t want to open the whole team orders debate here ;-)) and yes – one driver will not win WCC – no doubt about that…

  5. Raymond says:

    I have to correct you slightly there James. Mark only outqualified Seb in 2010. In 2009, Seb outqualified Mark, but just had to start behind Mark due to his 10-place grid penalty.

  6. Jeff says:

    James – Slightly off-topic.

    Christian Horner presented an aerodynamic explanation for why the Red Bull’s wing looked so low, saying that the rake of the car was to blame. He explained that they run a higher rear ride height than McLaren, and hence their front end looks closer to the ground.

    I’m not sure this makes total sense, since aren’t there minimum height requirements across the entire length of the car?

    Any chance of expanding on this in a future tech article?

    Jeff

      1. Dale says:

        Already looking forward to it though I beleive there’s more to it than (obviously) Redbull will expand on!

      2. efBir says:

        Much appreciated. Thanks for that.

    1. SteveH says:

      I had read Horner’s explanation also and was carefully looking at rake angles of the cars when there were side shots. My observation is that both the Red Bull’s and the McLaren’s have equal rake; I really couldn’t see any difference. The front of the undertray is almost touching the track for both of them, and the rear gap looks to be the same.

    2. Nando says:

      In doing so he admitted that the car didn’t comply with another regulation imo. There is a regulation saying the front wing has to have a minimum ground clearance or similar.
      Whitmarsh was pointing this out last-year.

    3. richard hughes says:

      sorry, but this is pure misdirection.

    4. kristian says:

      Back of the napkin guess, but both the ride height and wing deflection tests are taken when the car is stationary. Once the car is in motion, especially at high speed, it will hunker down. Note the McLaren troubles with pitch sensitivity a few years back where downforce would become unpredictable under braking since the front wing was too pitch sensitive. If you run a high rear and a just on the limit front, then once you’re at speed the rear will be high enough that the skid block underneath doesn’t wear and the nose will be lower than where the floor ends underneath the driver. I could be wrong.

    5. devilsadvocate says:

      In Australia the tail of the RB7 did look significantly higher than most of the other cars passing similar locations. for what its worth

    6. jonrob says:

      Yeah I rather think that explanation was aimed at a primary school audience. The floor height at the rear would have to rise during the race by about 40mm in order to achieve the “apparent” lowering effect of the front wing assy without it bending. It’s a fairly simple geometric drawing or calculation. No it’s bending. and as pointed out below by someone it very clearly breaks the minimum track clearance rule.

      I read a very technical explanation of this (carbon laminate bending) the other day, it is now use in new type helicopter blades to induce rake. Until the test method and area of measurement is changed they will get away with it.

  7. Gaz says:

    It’s amazing how much faster McLaren are now, than in pre-season testing. Also, Maldonado is faster than Rubens which I wasn’t expecting. Should be a good weekend !

    1. Sossoliso says:

      Wait until they go back to the octopus exhaust system they had during winter testing!!!

    2. Jeff says:

      Yeah, they do seem to have turned things around very rapidly, though we don’t know what the relative fuel loads were, so times in practice can still be very deceptive. Lewis thought that the Red Bulls had half a second in reserve.

      There’s a big difference between practice, qualifying and the race. Let’s see the relative positions following qualifying and then look at race pace.

      Of course, if the rain comes in as predicted, it’s likely to mix up the grids significantly.

      Even without the rain, with the new Pirelli tyres, victory may go to the car most gentle on tyres rather than the fastest car at the start line.

  8. Nick F says:

    Thanks for the info James. 8 seconds is massive.

    I think the TV graphics need to be changed now in the practice sessions. I watch all the sessions. Unless you have a laptop in front of you with the timing on it’s pretty hard to know what’s going on. I think they should start graphing the runs and then overlay different drivers. It’s pretty hard to make head or tail of what’s going on without that.

    Did anyone else here notice that Button had the titanium floor and Hamilton had a newer carbon fibre floor? I assume they weren’t able to make 2 so they chose to put it on Hamilton’s car. I may be wrong and Button might have a newer floor which they didn’t have time to make properly. It’s just something I noticed. Anyway Jenson seemed to be a bit faster than Lewis today.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      I stopped watching the FP sessions because they’re worthless to be honest.

      All you see is cars lapping. If you’re into watching F1 cars, you can download photos or videos but if not you are absolutely left blind as are the commentators and the spectators.

      Teams should be forced to tell how many laps and on which tires each of their drivers is going to do and those informations should be provided to the commentators in order to have a clue about what’s going on.

      Afterall, once the session is over every team knows what the others did and how long they stayed so why not announce it before and give these informations in order to enhance the FP coverage.

      1. Lockster says:

        You sure you didn’t stop watching because McLaren were faster than Ferrari?? :)

      2. Jack says:

        I thought that too :)

    2. Paul says:

      I don’t think so, teams testing new parts usually have one car with the update and one car with the previous version so that they can compare the performance gain/loss

    3. jonrob says:

      Can anyone tell me what the red “P” stands for on the BBC position list? I had assumed it meant the driver was using the Prime tyre on the timed run, however Schumi came out on softs, did a lap and a “P” appeared beside MSC. If anyone at the BBC is reading this it would be far better in white, it’s almost unreadable in red. I also have the Live timing online on the laptop but this does not mention the tyres.
      Get well Croftie, Montezuma will succumb!

      1. Martin says:

        I think it is from the global producer and the P just means the driver is in pit lane, not on track.

      2. Hingo says:

        It means they are sitting in pit lane. I originally thought the same thing

      3. LT says:

        It means the driver/car is in the pits

      4. goferet says:

        @jonrob Yes I too was confused by the ”P’ against drivers names in Australia & I too thought it signified that a driver was on Primes

        Am not sure but I think ”P” could mean a driver has pitted so Schumi came out on softs did a lap then pitted.

      5. The other Ian says:

        It means the driver is in the Pits.

      6. Lockster says:

        In the Pits??

    4. jonrob says:

      I didn’t think floors were allowed to be wholly titanium. The skids are of course, then there is the plank made of HDF then the monocoque made of carbon fibre and exotic resins.

    5. Mark J says:

      Great suggestion with the way lap times are shown and displayed.

      1. stringers says:

        It’s LIVE and for me, that makes it that bit more exciting. And it’s interesting to check out the mods – ie Mclarens new inpod winglets etc. It’s easy to pick up the times – lots of timing stream apps/links out there.

  9. Laurence H says:

    I have a vague memory from back in the old days when we used to have ‘marbles’ (the tracks, that is, not me) that a good hard shower would wash the marbles away. Is this correct?

    1. Matt says:

      I believe so. My understanding is the rain tends to wash the rubber away, which should get rid of the marbles. The downfall of the rain getting rid of the marbles is that the whole track loses that layer of rubber laid down.

  10. Nathan says:

    James, a marshal got run over today while the others around him were pushing Liuzzi’s car. Do we know if he was OK?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5BlX6wYMzg

    1. Lockster says:

      He got straight back up!! :)

    2. Nick F says:

      ouch. Hope he is OK. The mechanics can pretty much lift the front of the car and it was on grass which has a bit of give in it, so he may be OK. It’s hard to tell from the video. It cuts off too early, but it kind of looks like he is about to jump to his feet. The worrying thing about it is the way he twists his body.

    3. Hingo says:

      I am pretty sure the front of the car is very light so it probably wouldn’t have hurt let alone injure the marshall.

  11. Nick H says:

    Anyone have any idea if both Red Bulls were running KERS today or just one car? I’ve seen pictires of it on the car in the garages over at scarbsf1blog but haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere inte regular F1 press.

  12. PaulL says:

    Amazed Ferrari are so slow.

    1. Jeff says:

      Practice is one thing, qualifying is another. Ferrari might be off the pace of the McLarens and the Red Bulls, but I’ll be very surprised if they’re anything like 1.2 seconds off their pace.

      PS: I’m not a Ferrari fan.

  13. goferet says:

    Okay this is how I see it.

    If we have a dry race, I can see Mark Webber running away with the victory in a pretty straight forward manner as I find it difficult to believe Vettel can win four races on the trot (Damn those rowdy Bulls)

    But if we have a wet race, it will be a perfect hunting ground for Mclaren as we saw last year, the Mclaren lads came into their own when we had eventful or wet races

    So if it’s a wet race, I will go with a Jenson win for Hammy tends to have some misfortune or the other in Malaysia especially in qualifying

    1. Martin says:

      You’re recalling China in particular. In Australia Button struggled in the wet and in South Korea both drivers were relatively slower than their dry competitors. For example, Rosberg passed Hamilton early on and Alonso was dropping Lewis in the race too. Jenson had a shocker in Korea.

      In McLaren’s favour, this year’s car, which is quite different from the last one, is one that the team understands pretty well based on the Melbourne and Malaysian experience so far.

  14. Dale says:

    McLaren are some special team considering where they were only a few weeks ago with no testing of their modifications.
    Let’s hope we see a really good battle with Redbull come the race.

    I’d be surprised if Jenson is faster than Lewis coem qualifying though it would appear as thouigh McLaren have a nicely balanced car with seems to suit Jenson.

  15. Qiang says:

    Hi James,
    I am a bit confused right now. First about the article on BBC by Mark Hughes saying Ferrari is in pretty good shape, and then their rather poor performance in the Melbourne, lastly Flavio’s comments suggesting Ferrari should give up the season. My instinct is Flavio is not talking non-sense this time.
    Although I am not asking you to say it here, am I right to say that you already have a clear answer to that question?

  16. Benson Jutton says:

    Hi James,

    Great article as ever – pleased its reflecting the on track action rather( than the politics). But, I am interested to know your thoughts on Ferrari. Fernando has said how he thinks theyre close, and that 2010 was lost not in Abu Dabi, but over the season.

    My question is, after practice today, how much longer can Ferrar continue being 1 second off the pace and still maintain championship hopes?

    I remember well last year after Silverstone Fernando saying he was still confident, so its clearly too early for alarm. But nevertheless its still a big gap.

    1. Martin says:

      Your question is difficult to answer. In Melbourne Fernando was about 6 tenths of Lewis in qualifying, and another 8 behind Sebastian. In the race Fernando’s poor start pushed him towards a three stop race. Overall that probably only cost him about 10 seconds but, that would have left him around 20 seconds behind the Red Bulls over the race, so about 3ths per lap in race conditions.

      In terms of fastest laps, Alonso and Button set their fastest times on lap 49. Button stopped five laps earlier and wasn’t hunting positions in quite the same way, but Alonso was four tenths quicker, and his best time was second only to Massa (even newer tyres). Ferrari often don’t do light fuel runs on a Friday, so while the team is behind, by how much in race pace is difficult to predict right now.

      If the tyres make strategy a lottery, then the performance might not matter too much. Otherwise, unless the Ferrari is the fastest car then it will be difficult for Alonso to come out ahead of Vettel and Hamilton as they are at a similar level and currently are slightly ahead.

  17. Lockster says:

    Hi James,

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on how the “Friday Drivers” went today, particularly the performances of Ricciardo and Hulkenberg.

    Do their times relative to their respective teamates really give a fair indication of their speed, and what is the general feeling in the paddock about these two driver’s chances of getting a driver either mid-season or next year?

  18. Tom from Australia says:

    James, any thoughts on Daniel Riciardo? He looks super impressive based on times. Surely Jaime’s days are numbered? Future WDC and Vettel nemisis I say!

  19. stringers says:

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Webber complete his lap on the harder compound & Jense on the soft ? So really are Mclaren are 1s behind RB ? When are we going to see the octoxhaust ?

  20. Hingo says:

    Hi James,

    Sorry this is a bit off topic but I am after a better way of viewing your blog on an iPhone. If I got to scarbs or Adam Coopers F1 blogs, they go into a mobile viewing mode which is very easy to read. Unfortunately yours doesn’t do the same. Is there any chance of introducing a mobile viewing mode or even a James Allen iPhone app for viewing this site?

    Back on topic, I am also interested in your views on the new kid Daniel Ricciardo. There is a lot of talk about him replacing Buemi by mid season. I believe the Friday tests were given to him so he could prove his ability to setup the car before he gets a full time drive.

  21. johnbt says:

    FP1 & FP2 was hot yesterday but perfect for tyres degradation. It will be a huge lottery if FP3 and quali is totally dry and come raceday a wet race. Will it happen? If it does it will certainly be crazy race as Pirelli did not test the inters and wet in Sepang yet.

    If its dry on raceday like last year Red Bull will be dominate, while McLaren will fight without a doubt. I feel Button will do well tho. Lewis will not cease to put up a very good show. Finally Felipe is on top of Alonso for the first two practices. Alonso was really slow somehow, quite disappointed and hope Ferrari inch closer to the Bulls and McLaren.

    Am really disappointed that there’s no Kangaroo TV for rental this year at Sepang. It’s even more so important with the pits stops this season.

  22. I’d be surprised if Jenson is faster than Lewis coem qualifying though it would appear as thouigh McLaren have a nicely balanced car with seems to suit Jenson.

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