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Rosberg Tops tightly bunched Day One In Malaysia as Lotus encounter more problems
Posted By:   |  28 Mar 2014   |  9:24 am GMT  |  127 comments

Nico Rosberg continued Mercedes’ pacesetting form by topping the times in Free Practice for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. The top three cars were 7/100ths of a second apart; six cars were separated by just 0.2 seconds.

The Australian GP winner set a benchmark time of 1:39.909, with Raikkonen and Vettel joining the German in dipping below the 100-second barrier, all with the use of the medium tyre, the softer of the two compounds on offer this weekend.

The option tyre gave an improvement of around 0.8s for the leading cars, but suffered in the heat and on Sepang’s aggressive surface, with Vettel told by engineer Guillaume Rocquelin that tyre degradation was bad and to save rubber “in the usual places”. Vettel, though, was able to set his quickest time on the second lap on the tyre, hinting at Red Bull’s kindness to the Pirelli rubber in the searing temperatures. HIs long run pace looked good.

“I think we had a good day, obviously Friday timings are not the most important thing in the world but it’s good to be up there and in range of the top guys,” said Vettel. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner confirmed that the team had another problem with a fuel sensor.

Red Bull, along with Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams looked very close on both tyre compounds, with Fernando Alonso holding top spot ahead of Lewis Hamilton prior to the switch to softer rubber.

Hamilton eventually ended the session in fourth place, with Alonso in fifth before the teams switched their attentions to race simulations in the second half of the session.

Rosberg, remaining on the medium tyre, saw just a 1.7s drop in lap time across 11 laps compared to a three-second deficit for the Williams of Felipe Massa, who ended the day sixth fastest. Ferrari, too, had a drop-off of around two seconds, with Raikkonen consistently in the 1m45s bracket and around 0.6s slower than Rosberg on the same tyre.

But it was Red Bull who showed the best consistency, Vettel dropping nine tenths of a second in as many laps and matching the pace of Rosberg. That could allow for a two-stop race for the Milton Keynes squad against the expectations of three stops and will give them a chance to challenge Mercedes.

The sister RB10 of Daniel Ricciardo ended the session in seventh place, 0.4s off the pace but enjoying tyre longevity similar to that of his team-mate.

Jenson Button was the quickest of the McLaren drivers in eighth place, albeit 0.7s adrift and unable to match the race pace of the cars ahead, with the current world championship leaders’ second driver, Kevin Magnussen finishing the day in 12th place. The Dane stopped on track in FP1 due to an exhaust sensor problem and focused predominantly on longer runs in the afternoon.

Lotus’ start to the 2014 season failed to improve as both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado both broke down in this morning’s session. Come the afternoon and Grosjean was able to complete nine laps before a gearbox issue saw him to return to the pits. He re-emerged shortly afterwards only to suffer the same issue and stop on the side of the track. Maldonado, meanwhile, did not leave the pits.

An hour after the end of the session, the heavens opened and torrential rain fell. This was around the same time as qualifying and the race are due to start; 16-00 local time.

Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, Free Practice
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.909s 30
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m39.944s +0.035s 30
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m39.970s +0.061s 30
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m40.051s +0.142s 32
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m40.103s +0.194s 29
6. Felipe Massa Williams 1m40.112s +0.203s 34
7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m40.276s +0.367s 29
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1m40.628s +0.719s 28
9. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m40.638s +0.729s 35
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m40.691s +0.782s 34
11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.777s +0.868s 33
12. Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1m41.014s +1.105s 20
13. Adrian Sutil Sauber 1m41.257s +1.348s 28
14. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m41.325s +1.416s 32
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m41.407s +1.498s 34
16. Sergio Perez Force India 1m41.671s +1.762s 25
17. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m42.531s +2.622s 14
18. Max Chilton Marussia 1m43.638s +3.729s 20
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m43.752s +3.843s 29
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1m45.703s +5.794s 31
21. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 0
22. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 0

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Martin (England)

What happened to Rons half second improvement ? usually comes back to bite them on the bum when TP’s claim their upgrades will give them .5, reminds me of Mike Gascoyne in 2010 saying Lotus(Caterham) will be fighting with the midfield by Barcelona and 4 years later they are still where they started.


Man, that’s tight at the top!


These cars are still phenomenally quick around corners and to the spectator, trackside or sofa, a few seconds a lap slower is not that noticeable. I certainly couldn’t care less.

The cars are faster in a straight line and it looks like we’ve got the great corners back. Over the past few years, corners like Ea Rouge and Blanchimont have been lost to downforce but now it appears that they, along with all the other great circuits, will throw up a challenge like we used to know in F1. Love it!


I think today’s data is misleading, if it’s dry Sunday I expect Mercedes to still be significantly faster. They were coasting in Oz remember and even then Rosberg was significantly quicker than the next car. It seems as if Hamilton is having an easier time saving fuel than Nico so without any failures he should win.


I believe Rosberg is having an easier time being inside the fuel limit and post comparative times, not Hamilton. At least thats what Gary Anderson said.

Mike from Colombia

Gary Anderson seems to take every opportunity to undermine Hamilton.


How do you know LH is having easier time saving fuel


Can someone tell me what is contributing to Mercedes’ significant advantage. Their PU is being used by three other teams as well


Finally! Someone else been paying attention. As I said before; Lap times ain’t all of it.


I think Hamilton is a pretty sure bet for pole position again as he can squeeze out more over a lap, though he knows it will hurt tire durability later on. If i were him i would fully commit to a three stop race in the hope to stay in front the whole race as Rosberg might opt for a two stop race. This way he doesnt have to worry about tire life and can abuse them to his liking to make up the time for an extra stop.If both Mercedes drivers go for two stops Rosberg would beat Hamilton easy as Hamilton would suffer too much at the end of his stints. In any case on paper this should be a pretty straightforward win for MercedesGP and i would not be surprised if they split strategies this way to cover other candiadates for two stops like the Red Bulls.


let the events unfold.


Is Mercedes sandbagging?


Their is a raging bull, coming, and it’s red!

The lap over lap timing is the long term trend test, and Red Bull are ahead of the curve.

But the heat in Malaysia will break more cars than in Melbourne; maybe we’ll see half the field fail by the end, and I don’t know if there will be much differentiation across engine suppliers, except that it looks certain that the Lotuses will be gone by the first pit stop.

Clearly Mercedes started the campaign with a very significant technical advantage, but as predicted, the development pace will be pitched to a new magnitude, and the reigning champions seem to have a very clear advantage on everyone else.

It seems confusing that Ferrari, supposedly with as fundamentally uncorrectable issue of a ‘heavy’ engine, and up there with the front runners, apparently, after not looking competitive during the last race weekend.

Happy to see the cluster; looking forward to lots of surprises and the best driver having a chance to win!


A problem free day for Ferrari and Kimi looks a lot better.. Still a long way to go. It is Interesting. Lets hope Ferrari can give their TOP CLASS drivers a car they can race hard with. And it is gonna suck if it rains!!

The teams are so close in terms of pace. Hopefully we’ll see another team other than Mercedes Challenging for the win. My money is on REdbull stopping 1 less time than the others. Not sure if that is possible but I have a feeling that’s gonna happen


Just been watching FP1 and FP2. Noticed the Williams boys wearing shorts to do a pit stop – is that allowed on race day?


Just to add, there is no point making assumptions thus far because if the big man in the sky floods the track, then you need an Ark, not a Formula 1 car. And preferably a driver called Noah.

Will the teams come in 2*2 if it is wet?

Alexander Supertramp

All things considered, I think Mercedes still have a clear edge. A 1-2 is their’s to lose.


FP2 Picture is clearly skewed it seems

Ferrari and RBR appear to be lot closer to Mercedes than they were in australia. Have Ferrari have made any developments already to the car?

Cannot wait for the quali until tomorrow, here is one really hope for the dry quali session

James what is your thoughts? who will run Mercedes close in the malasiyan GP? Mclaren, Williams, RBR or Ferrari as an outsiders?


“FP2 Picture is clearly skewed it seems” Ah, there you are,… yes, it will be sligthly skewed cause Kimi ended practise ahead of Fernando with Nando being the greatest driver ever in F1 right. Better hope Kimi does’nt stay ahead then..


Race simulation average lap times:

ROS 1:44.868 HAM 1:45.459 VET 1:45.456 ALO 1:45.419 RAI 1:46.071 MAS 1:46.347 BOT 1:46.325

Rosberg fastest, Ham Vet Alo sooo close. Mercedes should be fastest in the race by 6-7 tenths, while it could be a very nice battle between Vet and Alo.

All this times are with softs I believe. With hards I it seems Alo could be closer to Mercedes.

Alo vs Rai: Rai did a faster qualy time, however Alo did an error in his lap. Alo was notticeably faster than Rai with hards, and six tenths faster in his race simulation.


what’s the point in using those lap times if you don’t trust them? why not just wait for the events to occur?

Michael Spitale

This is fairly laughable… you have no idea what they were testing, etc. NO way ROS is that much faster than Ham per lap… Same as ALO to RAI


Hey hey guys… wait a minute. I am not saying Ros is going to be faster or slower than Ham, nor Alo with respect to Rai. However, FP2 race simulation times give an approximate picture, as could be seen in Australia.

So take it easy please.


And if you paid attention to FP2 (if you watched it?) you would’ve heard Nico engineers telling him he was using too much fuel, whilst Lewis, going nine tenths faster at the time was being told that he on the money. They were even asking Nico to brake later amongst other things to get him to match Lewis. Times aint all of it my friend:-)


James how about some old school predictions, who will make up the podium on Sunday? I’m going with Rosberg kimi and Alonso. The only reason Red Bull don’t make the podium is reliability issues.


Red Bull win. Vet, Ham, then Dan on the podium.

Deciding factor is tyres, aero almost matches engine power. Red Bull slower but Newey lets their aero dominate sector 2 to keep up. Merc wear tyres and go 3 stop, Bulls do 2 stops. That is if it doesn’t rain 😉


That’s a big if on the weather front!

Dimitar Kadrinski

I am afraid you so far from the true 😀 (joking), but I guess the two Mercedes drivers(Hamilton on top) and perhaps a McLaren (Button) or RB if they manage to get to the end…

I would love to see Kimi on the podium, but really doubt it right now…

A prediction from a McLaren fan here 😀


My prediction is Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Kimi 4th. Rosberg is going to suffer DNF this time


why dnf? rosberg racing alone to the end was boring so will be hamilton racing alone to the end. i’d love to see rosberg and hamilton race or even better, alonso vettel raikkonen hamilton and rosberg race if the’re cars are close in performance. it’s all about the thrill of the car behind catching the one in front with a small gap between them and a few laps to the end.


Leaving Alonso as the WDC leader. I’d take that 😀


In which order shaboopi?

I reckon a Lewis,Rosberg,Alonso podium in that order


I think Rosberg will take the win with Alonso then Kimi third. I think Hamilton will have gremlins and the Red Bulls will be the best cars on the day but have reliability issues. I hope Ferrari will take a risk with one of their drivers, such as an extra pit stop but who knows.


1. Hamilton

2. Rosberg

3. Vettel


Well if the RB’s have suffered another fuel-meter issue, whatever that is.

Encouraging they’re towing the FIA line and not seeking to rewrite the rule book.


Maybe the sensor is still not working properly but in their favour.


Pastor has got to be kicking himself right now. Actually since the first tests. That his NEW team missed! He jumped from Williams just as they were about to up and landed in Lotus as it was sinking…. Hey, at least he got 1 win out of the deal! Should have trust Claire a little more and had more patience.


I wonder if Claire trusted him and his hold your nose money?


I’m glad he’s not in the picture at the pointy end. At least we see proper racing and not a madman taking people out of competitive positions.


James what about Ferrari n their alleged heavy engine n less top speed. Do we have some data supporting these theories? And what about Renault?


Well Ferrari have fantastic cooling and there was a lot of word going around that they were water cooling their engine, which would explain why they have such small sidepods as well as them being heavy. Sauber have confirmed they are running heavy and the only area that could be responsible for that is the power unit as I doubt they would suddenly start using heavy materials.

10Kg is apparently worth 3-4 tenths on the average circuit so I expect Ferrari will find heaps of time once we move to Spain; not least from the power unit weighing less but also from aerodynamics.


all the engines are water cooled.


Yes Gutierrez has confirmed that the engine is 13 kg heavier.


They said their engine is not overweighting, and their top speez is just 5 km/h lower than the Merc powered cars and faster than the Renault ones.


What will tomorrow bring with free practice and qualifying? Time will tell (JA quote #BBC).


Oh dear lotus, they better get it together soon or they wont have sponsors for long and all the money problems theyve had…one wonders if they will exist on the long run

Red bull appear to prove again that they understand aero better than any other team, the fact the car is kind to tyres and comments from pundits would suggest that…im a merc fan but I have a sinking feeling in a few races time the bulls could be there abouts at the front

If merc want to win the double they wont be able to relax thinking the engine will do all the work


You dont have to look at the times to know the RedBull Chassis is still ahead by a log shot in terms of pure aero dynamic pace. You just have to see the FOM pictures to know they have a solid car that works. Renault will run on full power and the we will see….


I heard in SporTV that Renault is making a move to retake control of Lotus as a works team. Makes sense to me.

Thoughts, anyone?


Interesting if it turns out to be true.


Red Bull were fastest in the middle sector by 2 tenths so you’re probably right about aero.


Red Bull are getting closer according to long run pace. Below are the first 5 laps of comparable stints on used mediums. In Melbourne Vettel was about 1 second off Mercedes. Obviously the situation is not ideal because we do not know fuel levels but ultimately it gives you a good picture. The previous sentence should be read in a German accent.




















Merc were clearly sandbagging imo; their speed through the speed traps was nothing to brag about.

I expect pole position will be 2 seconds or so faster than what we are currently seeing and Mercedes will surely find time in S1 and S3.

That said, if it rains it will all mean nothing as downforce is king and Red Bull will be very strong.








All those times (Alo, Seb, Ham, Ros) on mediums. Its going to be so close.


It’s also worth mentioning that, while all the cars were most probably running on full power, the Mercedes pair were not for both pratices. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves with regards to today’s comparable lap times.


Not sure how they’re managing to b this close after giving away too much on the straights…


It’s not a shock, in fact it was entirely predictable: Despite the 2 long straights, it is a track that rewards high downforce configurations. The middle sector is especially aero-dependent.

Look at speed trap times from previous years and you’ll find Red Bull at the bottom despite being at the top of the time sheets.


RB has always been slower on the straights (and often among the slowest). Real time (speed) on track comes in being able carry more speed through corners. It’s similar in cycling, it doesn’t matter how fast you can go downhill, it’s how fast you can climb.


Red Bull are the fastest in sector 2, while the Mercs are the best on top speed and Ferrari is in the middle of both.

Alexander Supertramp

Better aerodynamics. I guess that also explains their better degradation (less sliding).


Vettel got up to 315 while Mercedes engine cars were doing maximum low 320s on the pit straight. This is just from watching in the F1 app so may not be 100% reliable.


Red Bull has mostly been one of the slowest

cars in a straight line in the past years


I think that Merc will not win the title this year, it will be Red Bull again:-)

H.Guderian (ALO fan)


ROS and HAM will split points, while VET will race alone. Not saying RIC is a bad driver, but he will have the same treatment WEB had, so….


What are you talking about seriously?!? Who had the mechanical in Melbourne???

It seems the Hamilton fans are trying to cover their backsides already, look guys the Merc is the fastest car out there on race pace by at least 0.6sec at the moment and better reliability than Renault powered cars so this title is a must if they lose again to Vettel then Merc needs new drivers.


He said MERC winning the title (WCC), not Vettel winning the championship(WDC). If HAM and ROS “split points” while RBR “sabotage” RIC (your assertion), then RBR won’t win the title (WCC), MERC will.


Do you have any idea how many of my conspiracy theories I will have to dismiss if that happens? At least 3 about Mercedes.


Funny how fast things change in the world of F1 for here we are with the top 7 cars separated by 3 tenths which can only indicate the development race is well and truly in full gear.

Interesting seeing lots of drivers have off track moments, it would appear people are still coming to terms with having a rocket for an engine.

Worryingly with the extra power coupled with Malaysia heat, it appears the tyres will have their say this weekend with Red Bull looking the most gentle on the medium whilst Mercedes enjoying the hards more.

Nice upturn in form from Kimi, however the gab in the paddock is that Ferrari may be running with less fuel on Fridays.

As usual Williams’ form is confusing for why would they drop off by a full 3 seconds but for sure due to their lack of rear downforce, the team lacks the qualifying pace.

Meanwhile talking of the so called heavier drivers such as Sutil, it would appear being bigger isn’t that much of a hindrance in 2014 which is good news of course.

Anyway, looking forward to a competitive weekend as the big boys place their good foot forward.


“Interesting seeing lots of drivers have off track moments, it would appear people are still coming to terms with having a rocket for an engine.”

And lower downforce, coupled with billy-cart rear brakes 😉


I’d say the lack of rear downforce is causing more rear sliding and hence degradation.


Hope to see a race with 3 or 4 teams fighting it for the podium and it looks that way. I must say, l am a bit surprised to see RB so competitive already considering their pre-season showing. If they keep improving at this pace, Mercedes might have some true competition before long.

Are the fuel sensors readings controlled during practices? Or only during Qualifying and the race?

Looking forward to a great week end. Marc



what tyres did the top 5 used to set the lap times in FP2? Is it Med or Hard ?


Meds all round, as far as I’m aware, Has to be, the difference in pace is significant


The US guys kind of made it sound like both tires were falling off a cliff at the 12 lap mark. Is that correct or did I not understand?


Looking forward to the race already!! looks like RB has made significant progress. With rain in the mix, looking forward to surprise winner & the podium!!

Keenly looking forward to:

Kimi vs Fernando, Lewis vs Nico, Jenson vs Kevin, Seb vs. Dan & Felipe vs Valteri – ofcourse expecting the names mentioned first to out shine thier partners in this race..


Another one to look forward:who will stop first? Romain or pastor?


Hahahahaha,,, true that…


What about Hulkenberg vs Perez? Or is it a given that Hulkenberg is so predictable at completely smashing any team mate put in front of him? That guy deserves a top car he is on Vettel’s level and its such a shame we haven’t seen the Hulk in a winning car but it’s clear he is one of the fastest out there if not the fastest just look at what he has done to Perez so far.


True – I expect hulk to have a clean sweep this year.


Hi James, have Kimi’s Set-up issues been sorted out to a certain degree and how were his long runs compared to his team-mate.


He said after practuce he is much happier with the feeling of the car compared to Melbourne


Kimi tried the medium compound while Fernando used the hard one just to change to mediums at the end. His times then were faster than kimi ones, but who knows fuel loads.


“His times then were faster” .. and the track was a lot faster by then would you say


Francis wanted a comparisson between both Ferrari drivers and I gave one to him acording to what we saw today. Serisouly whats up with kimi fans.


Raikkonen looks promising. His 1st win came here. Likes the track. Look out for a kick in the shin from the Finn.

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