Bright tropical sunshine bathed Sepang International Circuit in a warm glow on the first day of practise at the Malaysian Grand Prix yet the heat and humidity remained at bay making for the perfect racing day. The first Formula One practice session kicked off with all the cars heading out to get two telemetry laps in before resting and analysing the data, the only incident being Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes squirming around on re-entry into the pit-lane after a undisclosed problem with his rear-end.
As practice wore on, the track temperature raised to a sweltering 50 degrees centigrade, pushing the cars into unfamiliar territory and pushing the engines cooling systems to the limit. Despite problems with the grip on the rear-tyres, both Mercedes drivers did well with Hamilton 0.152 seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari and that of his team mate Nico Rosberg. The back markers continued to struggle, with those running the Renault engine having a particularly bad time of it. Sebastian Vettel managed a decent time placing him seventh however problems beset Daniel Ricciardo and he couldn’t keep the speed up, finishing twelfth.
The McLarens looked strong with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnusson just 0.400 seconds back from the leader Hamilton. The same could not be said for ex-McLaren driver Sergio Perez who, after doing a couple of warm up laps, failed to re-emerge to post a time. Much like the poor Lotus team who had both drivers confined to the garage.
The second session saw the teams shift focus, loading the cars up with fuel and sending them out to simulate the start of the race. With the midday sun in Sepang bearing down and the track and air temperature rising, many drivers will be glad they have spent the last few weeks training in Asia to get used to the conditions.
With a greater amount of fuel on board, the true competitors started to emerge and as predicted by many at the start of the race, the Mercedes powered cars seem to be dominating the rest with Ferrari not far behind. After the disaster in Australia, Hamilton looks determined to stamp his authority on Sepang, overtaking fellow country man Button before pulling away from the McLaren with ease. He won’t, however, have it entirely his own way as of Alonso and Räikkönen’s Ferraris will be hot on his heels, both posting quick times
There was further disaster for Lotus in the second session as despite their best efforts, both cars stopped on the track and had to be pushed back to the waiting mechanics. Let’s hope they can get it together for the first qualifying session on Saturday. The session ended with Rosberg fastest and a consistent Räikkönen a close second followed by a surprisingly quick looking Sebastian Vettel.
So this looks to be the closest race in years with the top four teams all in with a shout at the podium on Sunday. We at Vision KL wait with baited breath for qualifying tomorrow. Can Lewis Hamilton make it two for two? We shall wait and see.