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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Malaysian GP set for thrilling McLaren in house battle
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Mar 2012   |  10:27 am GMT  |  178 comments

Free practice on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix showed that, once again, the McLarens remain the team to beat. But the Mercedes looks quick too and the Red Bulls’ long run pace hints at the threat they could pose on Sunday, as long as they don’t give up too much ground in qualifying.

And after Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s opening round battle in Melbourne, we are set for another one here. In Melbourne Button set up his car with more wing than Hamilton’s to take care of the tyres in the race, while Hamilton took the pole. Here Hamilton will have to be on his guard for whatever plan his team mate is concocting about the best way to tackle this race. It looks like a three stop race, but the two tyre compounds are so close together in performance, there are a number of ways of doing the race strategy.

Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets in both sessions, his time in FP1 a tenth faster than in FP2, with team mate Jenson Button also up at the sharp end, along with the Mercedes drivers.

Mercedes could challenge McLaren for pole, it seems, thanks to the gain from the passive F Duct and DRS system they have, but their tyre wear again looks more severe than McLarens with the result that their long run times are not as competitive as McLarens’ or Red Bull’s.

In overview, this track demands a car with lots of downforce, there’s less for the driver to do to make a difference than in Melbourne. Also the car has to be well balanced as the track causes significant degradation to the tyres. The afternoon was a session where many drivers were clearly unhappy with the balance of their cars, as we saw a far greater number of drivers coming in and out of the pits than usual for a Friday. Normally we see longer runs. We also saw drivers making use of the new rules which permit teams to use some of their Saturday tyre allocation on Friday. Most drivers used three sets of tyres, although McLaren used four.

Red Bull were pushing hard today, doing a great deal of work in the pits by their standards. Webber was 7th and Vettel 10th, complaining at one point about the balance of the car, calling it hard to drive.

Kimi Raikkonen’s chances of qualifying strongly were hit when he required a gearbox change at the end of the day, so he will take a five place grid penalty.

The Toro Rossos were impressive today, Ricciardo doing competitive times throughout the afternoon and managing to do long runs on both types of tyre. Team Mate Vergne was 8th. They will be worth watching this weekend. Ricciardo scored points in Australia and the pair of them to score more here.

Ferrari were also working very hard; they did back to back tests on a new front wing on Alonso’s car, the two time world champion ending the session 6th having tried two sets of hard tyres and one of mediums. Team mate Massa meanwhile ended up 16th, 1.3 seconds behind Alonso having used only the medium tyre in the afternoon session.

Kamui Kobayashi lost most of the session to a gearbox issue, but managed to get out with 15 minutes remaining.

Heikki Kovalainen also lost time with a hydraulics problem.

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m38.172 28
2. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.533s + 0.361 34
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m38.535s + 0.363 29
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.696s + 0.524 34
5. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m38.853s + 0.681 33
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.891s + 0.719 27
7. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m39.133s + 0.961 29
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m39.297s + 1.125 33
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.311s + 1.139 22
10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m39.402s + 1.230 25
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m39.444s + 1.272 35
12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m39.464s + 1.292 26
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m39.625s + 1.453 20
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.687s + 1.515 16
15. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m39.696s + 1.524 29
16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.271s + 2.099 27
17. Bruno Senna Williams 1m40.678s + 2.506 34
18. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m40.947s + 2.775 33
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m41.464s + 3.292 25
20. Timo Glock Marussia 1m41.681s + 3.509 20
21. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m42.594s + 4.422 18
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m42.874s + 4.702 24
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m43.658s + 5.486 18
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m43.283s + 5.561 22

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Andrew Halliday

It was great to see Mercedes do so well in the early days of the Australian GP last week, especially Schumacher. I feel like we were robbed of a potentially great performance from him. It wouldn't surprise me to see Mercedes slowly improve over the course of this season to a point where Schumacher stays on for a bit in a bid to clinch another title. My main concern is something Vettel said a couple of weeks ago, that he thought the first couple of races wouldn't necessarily be a true reflection of form for the rest of the season and he was confident. Perhaps the Red Bull will soon be fully up to scratch...

Also, thanks James for taking the time to have a chat with my mate and I on the weekend. I can confirm the coffee was good!


Good to see you in Melbourne, enjoying yourselves. You certainly got very close to the action!


From a selfish point of view I'm hoping McLaren to qualify at the front and Mercedes to hold up Red Bull for a while in the race.

I'd like to see McLaren get some runs on the board while they have a car advantage as no doubt 3 or 4 teams have the potential to be winners quite soon.


ive never understood this - so youre such a big fan of the mclaren fan that youd be willing to sacrifice competitiveness and racing just for the sake of this concept of a 'mclaren team' winning?

and what exactly is your reward, for this worship to mclaren? unless youre betting on them i dont see what the motive would be.

why cant you just enjoy the sport itself, and enjoy whoever wins, and admire skill, whoever its demonstrated by?


I really hope my not so favorite driver will win this time! LOL


You may be unaware of the idea of tribalism, identification and fandom in sport - but 99% of the world get it. Most humans are not dispassionate viewers of sport as an aesthetic exercise.

You may not get it - but I assure you yours is a minority view.


I assure you Auraf1 or should I say " Sheldon Cooper" , that you sound dispassionate and in minority more than anyone i have seen on this site. But gee thanks for your appraisal !

With the contest so close I dont think it will be a complete dominance by Mclaren, Red Bull will win a few & so will mercedes and ferrari later.

Unlike many here, I have no problem with someone winning by massive margins and regularly. As long as rules are marshalling is fair. But we all know thats not always the case!

I cant decide who I want more to win Lewis or Kimi. But I think the Mclaren will be too good this year!


Nothing like pulling a stat out of the air. I've watched F1 for years, been to many GPs and my family tends to follow Mclaren and Caterham. Also live a bit of Force India and Red Bull. Yes I know it's shocking for 99% of you but I mix it up.

I get the the emotional buy in.

We are united in our loathing of Ferrari too. Now that's what unites us!

That aside, we love the sport, the noise, the smell and the politics and the people. I'm quite happy to be in the 1% thanks. But please don't question my absolute love of the sport that I spend every race weekend pouring over.


Well I usually subscribe to your feelings of enjoying the show. But I do have a bias for McLaren and it has been a long time since they won a championship. I'm looking forward to a great season of racing and many different winners. However, I merely stated my preference for McLaren to get some runs on the board early while they seem to have the fastest car.

I do enjoy the sport and the skill of whoever wins and I'm not one of those poeple who throw the toys out of the pram if my prefered team don't win.


Go tell it to the ferrari fanatics.


Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I see both sides of your argument. It is boring to see one team or driver run away with a season (2011) but there is also nothing wrong with supporting your team!

As a Brit I often wish more of us would get behind Mclaren with their British driver line up. The Tiifossi (mainly Italian) are passionate about their Ferrari, why can't we get behind McLaren?


Nothing wrong with being a fan of a team or driver. It's like saying, you watch football but don't support a team and want them to win and want it all fair and even. You wouldn't get very passionate fans if everyone was like that chanting, 'oh good game, good game, he's a good sport! Bravo!'

Of course we want exciting races that are close and it's more engrossing having multiple winners and a tight championship, but I'd say if you don't have favourites that you root for, you're not investing the same level of emotion into the sport, and thus not able to receive the same emotional gains. Seems rather dull to just observe the sport in an apathetic distant manner.

Certainly though you want to see your favourite, whether it's Hamilton or Alonso say, battling hard to earn their triumphs. So I agree that wishing for a slower team to simply hold up other challenges so that your boy can scamp to an easy win wouldn't be rewarding, fan or no.


well you're kind of dismissing the entire concept of supporting a sports team there aren't you?


So, jonnyd, you're a Red Bull fan, right? ;D


Did you notice the pace of the Lotus James? Kimi's long pace looked to match the front runners... could be one to watch?


Had a fiver on him last week to win in Oz. Unfortunately he stuffed it in P1. Temloted to have another go today!!


Excellent note about JB having more wing in Aus than LH. These are the kind of little details I never see on any other website, from any other journalist. Thanks again and keep up the excellent work, James.


That piece of info only came out yesterday I think. It was on Autosport.

Another indication I guess of Button's tendency to plan the race better than Hamilton.


Could not agree more. James hosts the most incisive & detailed web-site available, he gets to the full detail when other only skim.


HRT are within 107%, they might race on Sunday! Good look to them.


Looks like it'll be close!

Hope they get in.


Do you really believe times were representative today?

If we compare with last year's times, then even considering ban of blown diffusers, top teams will easily shave 2-3 seconds form today's 1.38.


Remember they only need to be in 107% of the time set in Q1.


Hi James

Ive read that Alonso and Massa had been on different programmes hence the diffence in times. I hope thats correct otherwise the italian media will be going crazy come the end of quali if Massa is so far behind.



It's tomorrow that counts


If Fillipe fails to improve, there could be another guy who'll probably leave Scuderia by the end of this year - Rob Smedley.


Never can anyone deny Hamilton's raw pace, But Button builds his weekend, that makes him favorite in race-condition, the evidence was there in Australia for everyone to see, his last run in qualifying bringing down the differential between him and Lewis was outstanding and in race he was in another planet.

Lewis can win Malaysia provided Button can't build the weekend to his desires, which looks rather unlikely with 45 laps recorded in both the sessions. However, his qualifying pace will determine just how effectively he has managed to build up his weekend.

This year mentioning anyone other than Mclaren boys would be a waste, its their year, the car is a second faster than anyone can have this year, irrelevant to the in-season development, the Mclaren will be unbeatable, provided they don't implode with Hamilton v/s. Button battle reminiscent to their implosion in 2007.


Not sure the McLaren is 1second faster, half a second is probably pretty accurate though. It's certainly looking to have a considerably greater advantage than the RedBull enjoyed last season. Maybe its on a par with the 2010 Red Bull or 2009 Brawn. As per F1 you either need the best car or bags of talent to win, usually both. So I suspect McLaren will take the drivers title with One of their guys. It's just a shame that it really does look like a very uncompetitive season at the sharp end, granted Vettel made it look like that last year but some of he gaps in q3 were tiny. We shall see I guess.


What are you talking about?

Schumi is within 0.360s from Lewis and faster than JB. What 1 second faster than anyone else are you talking?

And I'm not a McLaren fan..


a lot of peoples discredit Vettle last year because he has car advantage. can we say the same here?


It's a bit early to be making such far reaching calls as you have, rather lets see how the teams and drivers fare after the mid season test at Mugello, as there may be major updates to some competitors (Ferrari, RedBull, Mercedes etc) which could level out the playing field more.

In saying that, I'm a big McLaren supporter so I hope your right as well!


Well, with confidence like that why don't you get yourself down to the bookies and bet everything you have -the house, the shirt off your back - that the car stays a second ahead of anyone else and that McLaren are never beaten in the whole season. I reckon you'd get odds of 2000/1 or more.

Oh and can you tell me next weeks winning lottery numbers as well please.


@ Egal: If you look closely, Mclarens were not pushing their cars on the ragged edge which every other car was visibly at in Melbourne.

If you paid attention to Jenson's pace on restart he must've got 1 to 1.5 second on the restart but by lap end he was some 2.8+ seconds ahead of Vetel, and that was without pushing the car to the ragged limits.

So I conclude there is substantial speed in reserve for Mclaren.


Don't know about that.

Button was a bit ragged several times out of Turn Two.

Thought it was my imagination, so observed closely and, yes, it was happening.

Thought Hamilton was smooth.


Good description of how Button & Hamilton operate Mo.

This is not aimed at you Mo, but you mention the past 'implosions.' We can't have it both ways. That is, we can't complain about Ferrari, or maybe Red Bull having a first and second driver and then complain about McLaren just letting them race.

In Hamilton's 1st year, his pace flustered Alonso. Still if McLaren had supported their , at the time, star driver and told the rookie to wait until next year, they probably would have won the championship.


If McLaren had supported Alonso, meaning told Hamilton to stay behind, or rigged their setups differently so he'd be slower, Alonso may well have won. But Hamilton would be consigned to number two for good at McLaren, and certainly would have dampened his racing spirit, maybe forever. Instead Ferrari got FIA to try to do that with the ridiculous persecution of Hamilton's driving in 2008 (and after).


Oh sure, you really think *this would fly:

"Lewis, Fernando is faster, do you understand?"

Not a chance in Hades.


"Ferrari got FIA to try to do that with the ridiculous persecution of Hamilton’s driving in 2008 (and after)."

Seriously, you need to leave your bubble and acknowledge reality. The FIA is not persecuting Hamilton or any other driver. Sometimes there are too hard, sometimes too soft. Its not perfect but It could be worst.

But when a driver keeps crashing into other cars almost every race, its normal for the race steward to be harsher with that driver.


If they'd supported the driver with the substantial points lead with two races to go (i.e. Hamilton) they'd have won the championship too.


They did but the driver did not deliver


Again, Mclaren decided to support Lewis over Fernando that year. He was given preferential treatment.


The McLaren is not 1 second faster than anybody else, that was the case with the RBR these last 2 years, but McLaren currently only have a few tenths at best in hand over a very quick group of teams, this is going to make a thrilling season, unlike the last 2.

They did not implode in 2007, Alonso did that all alone, at being unexpectedly beaten by Rookie and then not being given an advantage over Lewis so he could beat him.


Why do all roads eventually lead back to a 2007 Hamilton vs Alonso debate!!


Feel free to moderate this comment out of existence but come on guys, you're still arguing about something that happened FIVE years ago.

I looked at the topic and the content of this article and it's a preview of the next race, not a historical debate.


Exactly, We won't let any more of this kind of thing through now. Move on. Keep the standard of discussion high or go somewhere else - Mod


It was Hamilton's actions in Hungary that started the whole thing. The team had a plan for who went out first in qualifying. Hamilton off his own back went against that that plan and the team orders. Hence Alonso then taking action.

McLaren arguably had the fastest car in 2007 and would have easily won the WDC if they'd backed a single driver.


I don't think Alonso got any advantage from Mclaren when he was there. But It's fair to say that Lewis was given preferential treatment by his team over his team-mate: better strategies, "we were not racing Kimi, we were racing Fernando", last lap in Q3 in the majority of Gp, etc...


You can't have it both ways. Support team orders only when Alonso is No 1 status but criticize McLaren for favouring Alonso's team mate who was ahead on points.



Ham Pole

Schu 2

Butt 3

Ros 4


Butt 1

Ham 2

Vet 3

Schu 4


Exactly where do you see Vettel getting by the Mercedes cars? On the start, probably not as the Mercedes cars are usually off the line in a hurry? ON the straight aways? Not likely given that the straight aways are ware they are most difficult to get around. THe only chance, I think, will be during a long run and pit cycle.


The Mercedes is eating its rear tyres in comparison to mclaren and RBR. They are going to be compromised on pit strategy.


Red Bull will probably pass Mercedes after 5 laps when the Mercedes tires fall off. Their straight line speed can be impressive, but what did it do to help Rosberg when Vettel blew by him in Australia? McLaren seem the fastest but I wouldnt be surprised at all to see Vettel take the win on Sunday.


Agree with your points, but I think tyre wear will do for Mercedes - slow at the end of stints, being forced to pit early, etc.


I could happily live with those results... Let's hope it ends that way!

Maybe some luck could get Schumi on the podium too...


James, Mercedes in testing was pretty reliable in tyre degradation, i think if they sacrifice one lap pace, they can perform better in race pace and hopefully challenge for a podium.

Also why do you think with all the resources available, Button is so much better at race set up compared to Hamilton. Hamilton always seem to rely on his engineers, whilst Button takes charge and seems to make the right calls.


I think people are just adjusting to the fact that button is better than they expected, rather than Hamilton being worse.

I also think button and Hamilton have learnt from each other - last year button finally seemed to man up and take the overtaking on more like his teammate - while Lewis saw that a 'whole weekend' approach could be more effective.

Both drivers clearly have their own innate strengths which are very different but the sign of a great driver is willingness to learn and adapt to the car, the track, the tyres, the regulations, the competition...


This is a point worth debating. A lot has been made of it since Button moved to McLaren. Button's ability to coax another one or two laps of decent pace out of his tyres has won him a few races over the last couple of years. Hamilton has often blazed a trail of purple sectors in the first few laps of his stints but invaribly loses performance relative to his rivals at the end of the stints - this is how it appears on the face of it at least. Might be worth a detailed analysis if the data are available?

Is it a set up thing or driving style or is it down to a difference in mentality? Button's experience might lead him to play the long game whereas Hamilton's natural aggression might lead him to take the grip from the tyres when it's available.


This "Button & Tyre-managment" thing is a myth. It's like many TV commentoters say, "Alonso uses the Friday training to experiment with his car". As if the others are not doing the same.


Have you spoken to Pirelli about this?


It seems many forget that LH won 3GP last year with a car being inferior to the RB and won with his so called 'aggressive drive style'... he could have won 6 if he would have used his mind also. His setups are often right. Still 19 races to go this year!

Steven Pritchard


So you're saying he could have won three more if he hadn't crashed? How do you know what his hypothetical tyre wear was inbetween him crashing and finishing the race?


I dont think you saw Lewis interview Malaysia, and even if you did i dont think you will change your mind on the view that he relies on his engineer for race set up seeing the way your sentence was constructed. for the record, he said he choose a slightly less wing than Jenson, and caused him oversteer in high speed corner in Melbourne.

Grayzee (Australia)

To see only 5.5 sec covering the whole field is quite impressive! Better than the 8 or secs we had in Australia.

More promising is that only 1.2secs seperate the top 10!

If a driver misses an apex by as much as a bees dick, or slips on a pickle, he could lose 3 or 4 places. I can't wait for qualifying. Just hope it stays dry!

Grayzee (Australia) offence intended....the term I used to describe missing the apex is an Australian Slang term meaning a very, very, very, small margin! 🙂


Hey, James, I'm really looking forward to this race, although unfortunately I'll have to wait until Saturday and Sunday afternoon to catch up with events.

Now you're with the Beeb, do you think you could have a word with your radio news colleagues? Please ask them, rather than announce, ""Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix tomorrow...", to say instead, "On pole for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix is...".

It will cost them nothing but it will give me a chance to put my fingers in my ears when I wake up to the radio news in the morning. It's a courtesy they extend to every football supporter when they say, "...look away now...", so I think we at least deserve the same.



It's hard for you Poms to come to terms with the way we Aussies have always had to wait 'till after the news to watch our European F1 races!


Yeah especially around the early to mid 1990's. You had to wait for the 8.30pm movie that ran longer than advertised to finish, then the late news to run its course. Only then could we enjoy the unique combination of Alan Jones and Darryl 'Its gonna be huge' Eastlakea as they took us through what happened in practice and qualifying. Murray 'speaking from memory i dont know how many points Piquet has!' Walker then bumbled his way through the race as James Hunt, Jonathan Palmer, James Allen or Martin Brundle (and myself at home!!) tried to make some sense of what was happening....


+1 for us Kiwi's 🙂

Tornillo Amarillo

If you are a trully fan, wake up at 1, 2 and 4 AM and keep your head up the rest of the day!


It happened to me once, waiting the race in the morning in front of the TV set and 10 minutes before the moving sport-news in the botton of the screen telling me exactly and simply in small letters who had won the freaking race...

Matt (the vote counter)

I completely agree that the Beeb should provide a chance for listeners / viewers / readers to tune out before announcing results...


Is it not a bit foolish to wake yourself up with the news when you don't want to hear, er, the news?

It's right up there with clicking on and trying to run away before it loads.

Why would anyone do this?

If you don't watch the race live, all media goes off until the re-run, surely? No phone, no TV, no radio, no internet. Those are the rules.

Thankfully I have a handy brother with a SkyGo account that I have the login for, consumed on iPad, streamed to Apple TV box on my big TV.

Minimum cost and no need to exist in total sensory deprivation until the highlights.

I don't know why more fans don't try this. I think you can have up to 3 devices logged into SkyGo, so in theory, you can split the cost between 4 of you.


Very true. If for some reason I have to watch the race or qualifying at a later date, I avoid every possible news outlet - Facebook, twitter, texts, radio, TV, phone calls, web sites... I start every conversation with "I haven't seen the race yet, so don't say anything!" 🙂


Hey, some of us have the pleasure of sleeping in double beds, you know, and can't just turn off the radio because we don't want to hear the news.

And anyway I do want to hear the news -- just not who won the Grand Prix.

With regards to your other idea, I think you're probably breaking the terms of your contract with Sky if you're pretending to be your brother.


You want the news?

I can take care of that for you:

Default headline of the day:

"World Still Going to Hell" (film at 11)

See there! Now you can turn it off.


Sorry, but its going to be "A stunning lap by Michael Schumacher puts him on pole for..."



Even, "A stunning lap by...", gives you a fighting chance of sticking your fingers in your ears. My point is that they so unimaginatively almost always start with a driver's name, and as an F1 fan you can usually predict the rest of the news story.


Good god that'd be good.

Woke up in October 2000 to "Michael Schumacher is the new world..." *THUMP*


Hah! Move to the U.S. I promise: you'll not run the risk of hearing a word about F1 on the radio!


Yes, but you'll hear all about 'NesCorr' though .


Thirded.... I had to leg it to the clock radio on Sunday morning when the news came on Radio 2, to turn it off before they said who won the race!!


Excellent, excellent point. A simple courtesy indeed...


Also worth pointing out to them that on the front page of the 5Live website (on Saturday and Sunday!) that they were broadcasting "Formula 1 Live - With David Croft"!!!



F1 was live with David Croft. Only he was on Sky at the time!


No problem. Just get Button's telemetry and data and chose the best one for the race as you used to with Alonso.


The Spanish media is a joke. It's no wonder many Spanish fans genuinely believe Alonso was short-changed by the team. They are manipulated by a series of pathetic journalists (are there any good Spanish F1 journalists? a genuine question - there may well be). I read an article this week titled 'Hamilton teme que ser el Alonso de 2007' (Hamilton fears being the Alonso of 2007. It was full of junk about earrings, singer and model girlriends (typical Spanish Telecinco stuff) and very little or nothing in the way of facts.

Sergio, maybe Alonso shouldn't have burnt his bridges with McLaren. Then he might have a good car now and have a few more championships to his name. He should have manned up and accepted the challenge of Hamilton. Button has and is doing very nicely.


Credit where its due. Lewis was amazing in 2007. However nothing is totally equal but more importantly, as the season went on and Lewis led the championship nothing was totally fair either. Cant be totally level if Lewis consistently qualified with lighter fuel loads and to make matters worse, even given a longer middle stint to prevent being jumped at the stops by Alonso (hence the weave and fist shake by Alonso when he passed the pits at Indy). Also just the fact that McLaren had to inforce a team rule at Hungary to alternate who gets the extra fuel burn lap (presumably to make things fair from round 13 onwards!). Very close season with individual errors, bizarre FIA rulings and espionage taking the spotlight. Lowlights for Lewis were visiting the shanghai gravel and in brazil the gearbox gremlin/possible activation of the pit lane speed limiter fiasco. Also at the nurburgring being the only one helped out of the gravel trap by a mobile crane....fair enough he kept engine running but seriously. Fernando on the other hand had the a gearbox gremlin in Q3 in qualifying for the french gp, which forced him to start in 10th and finish in 7th. There was the 5 place grid penalty in Hungary thanks to Anthony Hamiltons protest of events in qualifying. Alonso was found guilty of breaking a rule that wasnt a rule at all! Also he had that off in Fuji and who can forget the infamous quote after the chinese gp by the Ronster....."We wernt racing Kimi, we were basically racing Fernando!!!". On the whole i think Lewis performed closer to maximum while Fernando had a lot of distractions (RON) that really affected his season.. Also does anyone recall Peter Windsor's unashamedly biased pro Lewis and very anti Alonso articles in F1 Racing? The sheer hostility still makes me cringe when i re-read them.


You bring up a good point. It seems that whenever Button beats Hamilton the explanation always comes from setup, strategies, telemetry, etc placing all the blame on the engineers rather than the driver.

It makes you wonder if both sides of the garage at Mclaren today are completely closed to see each others telemetry as opposed to the open data sharing policy Ron set in 2007 and everyone thought it was fair at the time.


Still sore about 2007?! 🙂


No sore, just remembering facts. Why should be different right now? I'm sure you would bet all your money McLaren is (was) equal with their drivers. Don't worry then and enjoy F1 as I do.


lol F1 rules. This is gonna be good season. Just good to see Red Bulls haven't got it all there own way! 🙂


I only saw FP2 but the McLaren's looked to be the only ones hooked up on track. All the other cars looked to be making a real meal out of their laps. I'm a McLaren fan, but foremost an F1 fan, so I hope the other teams manage to find a balance in FP3 so we have a proper race on our hands.

Grayzee (Australia)

Good post,James.

Unlike a lot of people who contribute here, you appreciate good racing first, while still having a favourite team.

We all have our team/driver we barrack for, but we should also put the quality of racing first. As much as I would like MW to win really doesn't matter who wins, so long as the racing is not boring!


What do you mean a favourite team? It's a fact that McLaren are at the front - lasts season it was Red Bull..?


If tyre degradation is an issue at this track, then Button might be tipped to find the best balance and performance for Sunday.

Meantime, I'm sure Hamilton will dominate practice and quali.

James, you didn't mention the ongoing problems at Lotus. Do you think they can overcome them, or are we looking at a year of drudge for the Flying Finn?

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Fed up of the world tyre preservation championship.

Bring back 2007-2010 ... no DRS, good tyres and real overtaking moves.

Pirelli might be mixing up the races with poor degredation. But what about the impression they might have left with regards to their road tyres?

Makes me go for Bridgestone every time I need a set of new boots for my own car.


If Pirellis want to make tyres that last a whole race and no pitstop was required then they will be able to do that.

Do you remember 2005 as bridgestone and michelin did. Bit boring no?

Its not part of their mandate, and a road car tyre has almost nothing in common with an f1 tyre, aside from being black and round.

Pirellis also make Rally tyres which can go on road cars and win on asphalt,snow and gravel. I dont see Bridgestone making world championship winning tyres for WRC cars.


F1 has a long tradition of tyre conservation, going back years, likewise with fuel conservation. The object is simple, the fastest car and driver combination gets the reward of pole position, the race itself is a slightly different discipline, requiring more talent than just driving a car fast. The likes of Senna, Prost and Schumacher are all well known for their additional mental capability whilst driving and it's in races that this came to the fore. I think F1 would be a much less interesting sport if you remove that element.

Steven Pritchard

Most Hamilton fans don't like the new tyres.

Now why is that?


Just as the higher wearing Pirellis seem to favour certain drivers I believe the harder Bridgestones also favoured some drivers more than others. It would be naive to think the Bridgesones gave everyone an even playing field and the Pirellis only reward 'smooth' driving styles and drivers who can look after tyres.

The old Bridgestones were able to be driven as hard as the driver could until the fuel stops. They rewarded an aggressive, stop/start kind of driving style. I dont think its a coincidence that Felipe and Lewis looked more comfortable with the Bridgestones than the Pirellis. In 2007 Fernando and Kimi experienced Bridgestones for the first time since 2001. They found the transition quite difficult and coupled with team mates that drove for years on bridgestones like massa, or tested with Bridgesones and used tyres with similar characteristics in lower formula like Lewis, found themselves a bit behind the eight ball. They both recognised they had to alter their driving style and understand the tyre better to fight for the championship. At the end of the day they all started fresh on these new Pirellis and if some cant get to grips with them in the second season then its their ability to learn and alter what comes naturally to them that is the biggest issue. Its easy to say the tyres are costing Lewis multiple championships, the racing is false because of the difference in speed depending on compound or Felipes not the same since his accident, but what if the simple fact is that, just as in years past some cant adapt as well as others to the tyre. I believe these tyres are giving us the chance to see the worlds best using a combination of skills like speed, race craft, patience and instinct just to name a few over a race weekend (not just raw speed) to determine who really does the most complete job to win a race. A true drivers championship.

Steven Pritchard


Which explains why most Hamilton fans don't like the new tyres!


The tires are performing according to plan mandated by FIA.


Yeah I wouldn't buy Pirelli tyres either, they don't seem to last very long.


Are you actually being serious with this comment? I cant tell if you are because surely nobody believes that Pirellis F1 tyres are in any way representative of their road car tyres. Also, they have been asked to make the tyres this way.

That said Pirelli are a performance tyre company so their road car tyres do not last as long as others but they offer immense grip.

Then you have some no name Chinese tyres which will last forever but good luck getting around a wet corner with them!


They were intentionally designed to wear out faster as ordered by the FIA. Its not a flaw. Unless this is your 1st time here you would know this.


Can you imagine 2011 with Bridgestone and no DRS?! The WDC was settled after the 7th race but at least the races were exiting. DRS zones still need tweaking from circuit to circuit but its a great addition. I think most F1 fan loves the Pirelli's. They really spiced up the show and they increased overtaking. Also it helps great drivers shine even if they don't have the fastest car.

From what I read in the F1 forums since last week, it seems that those how don't like the Pirelli's tend to support the same driver.


I can imagine it - some proper overtaking that was not overshadowed by an idiotic gimmick and perhaps closer races at the front, as drivers had the chance to take some life out of their tires trying to catch up, in 2011 they couldnt.


I disagree with the your point that by making tyres having poor degredation pirelli are losing potential buyers. All real f1 fans and many non-fans know that pirelli were ASKED to make the tyres that way.

And anyway, you could work out that the pirelli most likely have a road car division and then a motorsport division which have different aims for the tyres they are creating.


I said before during testing and I will say it again. McLaren are running away with it this season 😀


At least if McLaren are running away with it we'll still have a two-way fight for the championship.

If it was Ferrari or Red Bull again only one driver would be allowed to win.


Its not that Webber and Massa are not allowed to win, there are just not fast enough.

And let's be honest, when McLaren hired Button, they thought they were hiring a good driver to support Hamilton title challenge. Button made his place at McLaren and now is the No1 driver. Its up to Massa and Webber to do the same.


Its race 2 of 20. McLaren aren't running away with anything. Things quickly change in F1. Enjoy McLaren supposed dominance now when it lasts.


+1. Also gives the chance for a third chellenger to emerge, through consistancy.


Great point


Me thinks the McLaren's have this race in the bag! RBR will be close but not close enough! Mercedes are in there with a chance but the tyre issue is a huge factor! Dont forget about Alonso! RBR is playing catch up to McLaren. Its going to be an interesting quali and race!

Cant wait!!!


Don't forget the highly probable rain also! Could mix up the order.


I've been hoping for a Mclaren WCC for the past fourteen years. Never underestimate Mclaren's ability to throw it all away.


McLaren have the strongest car and the form of Hamilton looks ominous for the rest of the grid. I am pretty sure Hamilton will be on pole position and I think he will win the race.

As for the rest, Lotus are second fastest, Mercedes and Red Bull are battling for third and fourth fastest, as Williams and Ferrari battle for fifth and sixth fastest. Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber are battling for seventh, eighth and ninth fastest, as Caterham are closing in on the back end of the midfield. Marussia and HRT bring up the tail of the grid.


Let the prittiest car win again. such a great dominance both on speed and looks.


Spell Check 😉


*If* they go on to dominate the season (still early days, lets not get carried away), then it will make all the stepped-nosed teams look pretty silly. Ugly *AND* slow... oh dear!

Tifosi numero uno

after being trackside at the australian gp last weekend, these free practice results with Lewis on top again dont surprise me one bit. This race will be between lewis and jenson if there is no major weather interuptions. They looked like they were on rails in australia and these times sujest the same. James, Just on Daniel Ricciardo, another good performance in practice. From your experience in the industry, do you think Daniel has what it takes for a huge career in the sport. Getting very excited about him. Looks the goods to me


Haha. Weather Malaysia? No ...dry as a bone at least as often as Spa


He's very quick and as you say has done a good job in Melbourne and here so far



Just curious about how many pitstops we might see in wet but raceable conditions.

Roughly how many laps would teams get from wets & inters respectively?



THere's no data from this weekend on that. Hard to say


Nice day for Hamilton, I really hope he will have a nice weekend as well.

I can only hope that I won't see Nicole S. here (yes, I totally believe she is "evil" and the source of all Lewis' problems).

It was funny reading Lewis is betting on a race setup, while Button bets on qualification))) Tomorrow is really going to an interesting day!

As a bit offtopic - I just read Massa's excuses about his pace today... can't wait for Ferrari to sack him for good.


Hi James

I went to the Melbourne Grand Prix and sat near the start of the main straight so I could see and hear the cars come flying down, slow and then speed up again. One thing I noticed is that both the McLaren and Mercedes AMG handled those corners beautifully. But my second observation and a question to you is that when the Red Bulls and Renault cars slowed they distinctively sounded different and to me sounded like they had or were using traction control - something that is very distinctive and I first heard at Silverstone so I know what it sounds like. Are you able to explain why they (Renault) sound different?


The reason is the Renault engines are still blowing, it is cold blowing only, and it is for reliability, it helps keep the exhaust valves cooler. This was the reason they couldn't ban blowing alltogether last year, it would unfairly affect Renaults reliability.


Mercedes too have queried the Red Bull sound, although they suggested that the engine was being cut by more than four cylinders.

The FIA though have dismissed that theory.


OK, here's my theory:

Just before they get to the braking point they lift early and cause the extra hot gases thing. These are immediately collected in a large balloon. When *in the corner they are throttle-legal and the balloon blows all those gasses into the diffuser.


I read its something to do with engine misfiring to create exhaust gas.


Running on less cylinders. Ted Kravits suggested they're (legally) using it as a kind of traction control mechanism. Somewhat ironically as the cars are sliding all over the place! 🙂


You are not the only one who smells something fishy about RBR/Renault:


Mercedes have flagged this to the FIA (there is an autosport article about it), but the FIA have said there is nothing untoward.

Edouard Valentine

Hi James,

How much faster, over the duration of the race, is a three stop strategy over a two stopper assuming we do not have a safety car?

Edouard Valentine

I did indeed try that - I can't say I will be headhunted as a F1 strategist anytime soon.


4 stops worked for me!

I think that the story of this season will be the thrilling McLaren in house battle. It was already trilling enough last year...


James, is there a view about what the weather will be like for race day? It's always unpredictable but any insight what the teams are thinking?


The Mclarens would go even faster if they had silver wheels instead of black.

Black wheels is a dated look

Cheers for Mac!


This was a funny quote from Jean-Eric Vergne after the practice: "Since last year, I've driven the track at the simulator a lot, but they don't have the heating turned to maximum in Milton Keynes!"


That is funny. Maybe funnier than Kimi's blue flags or Alonso's, "Ah yes, then there are the gravels."


Hey James! Great article! I love how this season is starting out already with the boys at the top getting really mixed up. It's going to be a great battle with McLaren and Mercedes really fighting hard with Red Bull. And some of these younger drivers are really looking impressive.

I wanted to let you know about my newly launched website for connecting F1 fans with drivers. I tweeted to you about it yesterday as well. Check it out at! Thanks!


What's the forecast like, I heard it could be a wet qualifying and race.



Precisely how much of a gain does Mercedes get from the passive F Duct and DRS system? Are we talking +10km/hr down the straight?

If so, and assuming the Mercedes' tires last, they could be very difficult to overtake on Sunday and really screw Red Bull race strategy.


3 or 4 tenths in quali, not race


Hi James

Paul Hembrey said that the mercedes' tyre degradation is being blown out of proportion. Do you agree with him? Why did we not see this being an issue during testing? What does it take to fix degradation?


Great comment and question I would also like to know how Mercedes would tackle the tire question. Great site James, the first one I go to for F1 news! Love it!


Great pace from the Mclarens they surely look like the car to beat especially in qualifying but as the BBC analysist Garey Anderson noted, in Melbourne, Vettel's Red Bull was faster than Jenson's car every lap of that race with the exception of the first lap.

So it seems the ban of the blowing of gases is affecting the Red Bulls in qualifying for their race pace is still there.

Of course will poor qualifying, this makes Sundays that much harder for those Bulls & can even lead to collisions within the pack.

Yeah with the Mercedes engine lock out in FP2 it's quite clear they will have the upper hand this season especially on power circuits so the Renault engine teams are already at a disadvantage & this includes Red Bull.

Now, am not expecting miracles from Ferrari despite Alonso's top 10 showing for not only did Alonso tell us not to expect any but also said the car is pretty much the same one from Melbourne so me thinks they took out some fuel for a glory run as a tribute to moto gp's Marco because Alonso should really be around Massa's vicinity.

Right, seeing as Mclaren has never been on pole at this track & also taking into account the fact that Hammy tends to have one problem or the other in qualifying at this venue in terms of penalties or rain, I say Mercedes & in particular Schumi is to pole this with the Lotuses not far off.

My prediction for qualifying









really?! Vettel was faster except first lap? You need to take another look at your figures. The fastest lap always takes place late in the race and was taken by Button which by my reckoning means Vettel must have been slower....


It's unlike for Gary Anderson to get his fact wrong, but JB recorded a number of fastest laps and topped it off with the fastest lap of the race. 1m29.922s


Kimi has a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change which is a shame, hopefully he can fight through the field again.


Hope you had a good birthday gofe!

But..I don't understand your logic. You say Alonso should be in Massa's vecinity in terms of pace...but Alonso hasn't been around Massa for more than a year...

I seriously struggle to understand the logic you go about..



But..I don’t understand your logic. You say Alonso should be in Massa’s vicinity in terms of pace


Why thank you, yes I sure did have a fun birthday, it almost felt like we were celebrating a WDC.

Whoops, I wasn't clear in my comment.

I didn't mean that Alonso should have shown the same pace as Massa but rather that Alonso should have ended FP2 outside of the top 10 e.g. In 12th place or 13th place.


Gofe..that's exactly what I understood..and doesn't make sense to me.

You say that they took the fuel out so Alonso would get a quick lap..because his pace should be where Massa's is, right? But Massa and Alonso have been miles away from each other in terms of pace in the last year.

anyway..lets move on from this.


I may be alone here, but am I the only one to note that at the end of FP2 when invariably teams do long runs the Williams cars where lapping consistently within a tenth or two (sometimes quicker) than Button's McLaren and quicker than the tyre eating Mercedes? I'm obviously not aware of the respective fuel loads or tyre compounds but Bruno Senna validated what I saw by confirming the FW34's long runs were good. If they can behave themselves during qualify & the race I think Williams could be as much a dark horse as Lotus, thoughts?


James, would love to hear your prediction for the top three podium this Sunday? I'm going with Button, Hamilton and Grosjean.


Good call.

I'm going Hamilton, Button, Vettel


Solid line up James. We will see how things pan out. Two things - do you think the high heat in Malaysia will benefit teams the have trouble getting heat in their tires, as Ferrari seemed to in Oz after the safety car?

Secondly, I was hoping this week you might shed some light on the supposed cost cutting proposal letter that went to 10 of 12 teams except the two Red Bull owned ones. What is your opinion on Christian Horner's speech about not receiving/ not agreeing? I mean which is it, the whole thing confused me. My current opinion is Red Bull are the most shady team in F1..

Tornillo Amarillo

Hamilton, Vettel, Button


Quote from Christian Horner on today:

"Hopefully with some productive discussion going forward a solution can be found to make Formula One cost-controlled for the top teams, but also make it affordable for the teams in the middle of the grid and at the back of the grid," he said.

Well I got your solution: Reverse the prize money payout each season! Last place gets the most, winners the least. That should help.

No, too drastic? Ok how about a sliding scale of allowed budgets based on finishing position?

No? So then you don't really mean it, do you, F1.

Didn't think so.


hmm no mention of Timo splitting the two Caterhams? Only FP2 i know but still...Marussia only now in testing stages! The car looks solid to me.

James, i did a 3 stopper in your Race Strategy and my graph was over the default by some margin, is that good or bad? cant figure out if its supposed to be under or over to be better.

did lap 10(new soft)lap 24(used hard) and lap 40(new hards)


Over is faster. But did you use used options, as you would have to do after quali?


for the first stop? Why would i? they're already on the car. The first pit stop is to swap those for different tyres...right?

So then you could 'upgrade' the RSC by including the tyres you want to quali on 🙂

...if thats what you're referring to


I can't wait for quali tomorrow to put the RBR doubters in their place ;)Priceless.



I was just playing with your strategy calculator. Very cool and fun tool. Is your team planning to build in more options in the future (i.e., qualifying position, taking into account possible strategy of other drivers, etc) or is this just a bit too much. Maybe it is. I had fun with the tool anyways. Thanks.


I think kimi will be up there. He could possibly challenge for pole. Grosjean was less than 4 tenths down from the Macs in Australia. So I think Kimi has a very good chance to be at this stage 4 tenths quicker than Grosjean which would put him on pole for Melbourne and a real contender for pole here. There is no real sign so far that Kimi cannot contend for this pole. It would be a surprise for many, but a possible one.

Also I think hulk is on great form he should have a good weekend.


James, great report on the FP!

Could you perhaps make the name of the teams bold for the lap time chart, thereby making it easier to read?

Thanks, keep up the great work!


Hard to believe that LH has put his car on pole two sessions running and still he gets negative feedback??? I was never a believer in conspiracy theories but I am now wondering. Gary Anderson almost payed LH a compliment at one stage but then went into JB mode. F1 is about driving the fastest car the fastest but now it seems not!


It's great to see Jenson back on top

I think he has shown he is more than capable of having a really competitive season.


The concept of Red Bull being better in race trim than qualifying is going to taking some getting used to.


James (or anyone else) what is that lever that Michael Scumacher keeps operating on his left hand side - almost like a gear lever.... you can see him do this on the BBC inside coverage at 8 mins in... How come nobody mentions this?


Brake bias, front and rear. Many drivers do it


Yep,its shaping up for a great season ahead. If,as it seems right now,mclaren are holding all the aces,then let battle commence! HamiltonVButton,death or glory!(only kidding)Interesting though that hamilton's idol was a one a.senna,and so explains his driving style. There are comparisons. And then we have button with his admiration of a.prost's driving,and again,the comparisons are there to be seen with button's driving. Now i know some fans wouldnt want to see the bitterness,mistrust,and anger that summed up the senna,prost mclaren era? But for me,its like,bring it on lewis and jb. Formula1 has become very tame compared with back then. I dont think there would a much better narrative,if h&j fought in similar ways as their heroes. Actually,i see it more as their duty with us fans to win at all costs. Lets bring down the farce thats been those 2drivers so-called love in,at mclaren. No,what i want is swashbuckling action and daredevil manoveres! Lets make f1 angry and loud again!!

Stone the crows

Kimi's luck seems to be as good as ever!

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