Practice One - Hamilton stakes his claim on Sepang 02 Apr 2010
McLarens Lewis Hamilton put his difficult Australian weekend firmly behind him as he set the pace in Friday mornings first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
There was a nice bit of theatre when Tony Fernandes made sure that a Lotus was the first car out of the pits at the start of the session. This is a very big weekend for the Malaysians, and test driver Fairuz Fauzy was installed in Heikki Kovalainens T127 for this session, just as Paul di Resta took over from Vitantonio Liuzzi at Force India.
In high temperatures and humidity, 2008 champion Hamilton wheeled his McLaren round in 1m 34.921s and for a fair time it was team mate Jenson Button who was his closest rival with 1m 35.207s. But then Michael Schumacher got his Mercedes going well after a lot of downtime in the garage, with a lap of 1m 35.225s, and then Nico Rosberg got back in front of his team mate with 1m 35.106s to finish in second place.
Showing that Melbourne was no fluke, Robert Kubica put Renault fifth with 1m 35.402s, just ahead of Mark Webbers Renault-engined Red Bull on 1m 35.479s.
There was then a half second gap to Adrian Sutil, seventh for Force India on 1m 35.955s, and Fernando Alonso on 1m 35.959s. So far neither Red Bull nor Ferrari have shown signs of their expected edge here, and while Alonso looked quite smooth his team mate Felipe Massa had an adventurous time on his way to an 11th fastest 1m 36.451s, which included on excursion across the gravel in Turn 11, and another bumpy ride over a rumble strip.
Between them sat Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel on 1m 36.043s and Toro Rossos Sebastien Buemi on 1m 36.100s, while right behind Massa was Kamui Kobayashi for BMW Sauber with 1m 36.503s, Jaime Alguersuari for Toro Rosso on 1m 36.645s, Vitaly Petrov on 1m 36.712s for Renault, Paul di Resta on 1m 36.891s for Force India and Pedro de la Rosa for BMW Sauber on 1m 36.899s.
After that the times became more fragmented. Nico Hulkenberg was 17th on 1m 37.802s ahead of Williams partner Rubens Barrichello in 1m 38.278s, then Jarno Trulli put Lotus ahead of Virgin after a great little session-long scrap. The Italian lapped his T127 in 1m 39.460s to settle the issue, as Timo Glock took his Virgin round in 1m 39.755s. Lucas di Grassi improved at the end in the sister car for 1m 40.159s and 21st place.
Fauzy survived a couple of lurid moments to take 22nd in the second green and yellow car, on 1m 40.721s, and then Bruno Senna just aced HRT team mate Karun Chandhok with 1m 41.832s to 1m 41.966s.
Itll be interesting to see what happens this afternoon when Red Bull and Ferrari get into their stride, and whether McLaren really are as quick as Lewis Hamilton hoped yesterday.