Massa the high flyer in opening practice 06 Apr 2007
It was anything but for the men in the sauna-like cockpits, of course, but the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix got off to an otherwise leisurely start in Sepang this morning.
With a track temperature that varied between 41 and 48 degrees Celsius, and an ambient of 33, Ferraris Felipe Massa set the immediate pace with a lap of 1m 34.972s from McLarens Fernando Alonso (1m 35.767s), followed by respective team mates Kimi Raikkonen (1m 35.779s) and Lewis Hamilton (1m 36.548s). They did their times, then they went back to the garages.
Raikkonen, incidentally, will almost certainly get an engine change tomorrow morning, following the water leak his V8 developed in Melbourne. But of all the tracks on the calendar, this is one on which a 10-place grid penalty may be less serious.
There were few incidents in the session; Alonso had two offs, however, the first in Turn 9, the second in Turn 4. No damage was sustained in either.
With five minutes to go, the main runners apart from Massa were all out again. Nobody beat the Brazilians time, but Alonso and Hamilton each improved, to 1m 25.220s and 1m 35.712s, leaving them now second and third respectively ahead of Raikkonen, who didnt go quicker.
Nico Rosberg vaulted up to fifth for Williams on 1m 36.308s, ahead of Red Bulls Mark Webber on 1m 36.522s, Toyotas Jarno Trulli on 1m 36.597s, and the continuingly impressive Kazuki Nakajima, who lapped his Williams in 1m 36.88s despite one off in Turn 15. That edged out Ralf Schumachers 1m 37.052s for Toyota and Robert Kubicas 1m 37.121s for BMW Sauber, while David Coulthard (whose Red Bull received an unpenalised engine change after the Melbourne race) improved right at the end from last place to 11th with 1m 37.484s. Sebastian Vettel took his BMW Sauber round in 1m 37.837s, narrowly beating Tonio Liuzzis 1m 37.882s for Toro Rosso.
Neither Renault driver showed their hand; Heikki Kovalainen did 1m 38.143s, Giancarlo Fisichella 1m 38.300s for 14th and 15th respectively.
Adrian Sutil again aced Spyker team mate Christijan Albers, with 1m 38.730s and 1m 40.074s apiece, Sutil going 16th, Albers 22nd.
In between them were Super Aguris Takuma Sato (1m 38.966s), Scott Speed (1m 39.130s) in the Toro Rosso, the troubled Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello (1m 39.234s and 1m 39.331s) and Anthony Davidson (1m 39.357s) in the second Super Aguri.
It is important to remember, however, that this is the preliminary stage of the weekend, and not too much should be read into the mornings times.
Incidentally, from this race onwards Bridgestone have brought along tyres marked with a central white stripe within the tread area, to visually denote which is the softer compound.