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Practice One - Williams one-two again at Sepang 03 Apr 2009

Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) jumps from his Ferrari F2009 in the pits after a possible KERS related incident. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009

Williams’ Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest times in the first session of practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on Friday morning, pushing Australian race winner Jenson Button off the top slot in the dying moments.

Button could not improve on his lap of 1m 36.430s in the final minutes, as Rosberg lapped in 1m 36.260s and Nakajima 1m 36.305s. The times compared with Felipe Massa’s pole position time from 2008 of 1m 35.748s.

The session began in with a track temperature of 33 degrees Celsius, and that had risen to 42 by the end of the hour and a half.

Behind Button’s Brawn, the animals came two-by-two as team mate Rubens Barrichello lapped in 1m 36.478s, followed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 36.561s and 1m 36.646s respectively.

Raikkonen was forced to pit towards the end of the session when smoke began to billow from his Ferrari. Initially it seemed to be in the cockpit, suggesting that the fire extinguisher had triggered. It transpired that there was also smoke around the rear of the car, and the masks donned by mechanics who moved in to investigate later suggested that the KERS batteries may have overheated.

The symmetry was interrupted by Lewis Hamilton in an improved McLaren MP4-24 on 1m 36.699s, then came the Red Bulls with Mark Webber marginally ahead of Sebastian Vettel with 1m 36.703s and 1m 36.747s apiece. Timo Glock headed Toyota team mate Jarno Trulli with 1m 36.980s to 1m 36.982s to round out the top 11.

Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella enjoyed similar straight-line speed to the Ferraris, and took 12th on 1m 37.025s, ahead of BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica on 1m 37.039s and Nelson Piquet on 1m 37.199s.

Piquet, like Raikkonen, did not finish the session after spearing off the round in Turn Six with some sort of failure in the right front of his Renault.

Sutil was 15th on 1m 37.241s in the second Force India ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso on 1m 37.395s. Sebastien Buemi was next for Toro Rosso with 1m 37.634s, then came a troubled Nick Heidfeld on 1m 37.640s for BMW Sauber, Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais on 1m 38.022s and Heikki Kovalainen on 1m 38.483s. The Finn’s time was initially fourth fastest, but a technical problem with his McLaren curtailed his track time.

Besides Piquet, Raikkonen and Kubica also had off-track moments, while both Toyota drivers spun.

So, at the very top the picture is not dissimilar thus far to Australia. The Ferraris have been making maximum use of the KERS on the long straights, but it remains to be seen whether the Brawns, as they did in Melbourne, have something in hand.