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.
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