Hamilton sets early pace in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton set the pace in Friday’s first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.

The McLaren driver, who arrives at Sepang after finishing a disappointing third in last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix having started on pole position, lapped the 5.543km track in a time of one minute 38.021 seconds.

Vettel, who finished second in Melbourne ahead of Hamilton, ended the 90-minute session second fastest, albeit with a time 0.514s slower.

The defending World Champion had traded the fastest time with Hamilton about 40 minutes into a session which saw most cars concentrate on running the harder Pirelli tyre.

The silver-marked tyre is making its debut this weekend at a circuit that, owing mainly to the heat, is notorious for its high degradation rate. The track temperature topped 44 degrees Celsius at the end of the session.

Of course, the drivers were also feeling the conditions and many leapt straight from their cockpits after completing installation laps to take on fluids and keep themselves as cool as possible.

Backmarkers Marussia and HRT bucked the trend as they sought to give their cars – the last in the field to make their debuts – valuable running time.

However, it was much the same story for the Spanish team as it had been in Melbourne, with Narain Karthikeyan slowing to a halt early on.

Both the Indian and team-mate Pedro de la Rosa ended up setting times more than 107 per cent slower than Hamilton’s best, which leaves them in danger of failing to qualify for the second race running.

Hamilton’s team-mate, Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button, ended the session ninth fastest but another indicator of McLaren’s potential this weekend was the speed and consistency of the MP4-27 during the longest runs undertaken.

Of course, both teams may have been running different fuel levels but the McLaren appeared faster than Red Bull’s RB8, with Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber himself sixth fastest overall.

Splitting Webber and Vettel were Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, with Lotus’s Romain Grosjean fifth fastest.

Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen and Force India’s Paul di Resta were seventh and eighth, with Di Resta’s team-mate Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10 behind Button.

Williams reserve Valtteri Bottas, who replaced Bruno Senna for the morning, ended P11 directly ahead of team-mate Pastor Maldonado.

It was another muted outing for Ferrari, however, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso respectively 13th and 15th fastest.


1) L Hamilton McLaren 1:38.021 19 laps

2) S Vettel Red Bull 1:38.535 21

3) N Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.813 21

4) M Schumacher Mercedes 1:38.826 19

5) R Grosjean Lotus 1:38.919 17

6) M Webber Red Bull 1:39.092 20

7) K Raikkonen Lotus 1:39.128 22

8) P di Resta Force India 1:39.298 23

9) J Button McLaren 1:39.323 15

10) N Hulkenberg Force India 1:39.440 19

11) V Bottas Williams 1:39.724 23

12) P Maldonado Williams 1:39.783 23

13) F Massa Ferrari 1:39.896 16

14) K Kobayashi Sauber 1:39.910 21

15) F Alonso Ferrari 1:39.980 23

16) J Verge Toro Rosso 1:40.099 23

17) H Kovalainen Caterham 1:40.247 19

18) D Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:40.469 23

19) V Petrov Caterham 1:40.857 25

20) S Perez Sauber 1:41.085 23

21) T Glock Marussia 1:43.170 18

22) C Pic Marussia 1:44.580 14

23) N Karthikeyan HRT 1:45.360 8

24) P de la Rosa HRT 1:45.528 18