Practice One - Hamilton stakes claim at Sepang 23 Mar 2012
McLarens Lewis Hamilton ended Practice One at a hot and humid Sepang on Friday half a second clear of Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel, and eight-tenths up on the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton, who was on pole at last weekends Australian event, banged in a lap of 1m 38.021s with Pirellis hard rubber on his McLaren, not long after Vettel had ducked below his previous best with 1m 38.535s for Red Bull.
Rosberg beat Schumacher, 1m 38.813s to 1m 38.826s, while Romain Grosjean showed the potential of the Lotus E20 with 1m 38.919s once an initial rear-end stability problem had been sorted out.
After the first hour a rise of track temperature from an initial 35 to 41 slowed things and the times dropped away.
Mark Webber spent a lot of time in the Red Bull garage with his RB8s right-rear corner being worked on, after hed clocked 1m 39.092s to head Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 39.128s, Paul di Resta on 1m 39.298s for Force India and initial pacesetter Jenson Button on 1m 39.323s in the second McLaren.
Nico Hulkenberg was 10th in the other Force India with 1m 39.440s, then came the Williamses of reserve sensation Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado. The Finn, the reigning GP3 champion, lapped his FW34 in 1m 39.724s on his first Friday appearance to beat his much more experienced team mate, who managed 1m 39.783s. That was impressive.
The Ferrari met the trouble that had been expected, with Felipe Massa only 13th on 1m 39.896s and Fernando Alonso on 1m 39.980s, and they sandwiched Kamui Kobayasahi on a troubled day for Sauber as the Japanese driver couldnt better 1m 39.910s. Team mate Sergio Perez, who twice went off the road in Turn Four and lapped in 1m 41.085s for 20th place, described his C31 as undriveable.
Toro Rosso were also in trouble. Jean-Eric Vergne was their faster runner with 1m 40.099s for 16th ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, the first and one of the few to try the medium Pirellis; he lapped his Caterham in 1m 40.247s. Then came Daniel Ricciardo in the second Toro Rosso on 1m 40.469s, Vitaly Petrov in the other medium-shod Caterham on 1m 40.857s, Perez, and the Marussias of Timo Glock and Charles Pic. The team were desperate for some dry-road running and Glock did 14 laps for 1m 43.170s, but Pic stayed in the garage for a long time having his car worked on and only came out towards the end for a best of 1m 44.580s.
The HRTs gained miles, with Pedro de la Rosa managing a valuable 18 for a best lap of 1m 45.528s, but slightly quicker team mate Narain Karthikeyan came to a halt with gearshift problems after posting 1m 45.360s. As things stand, they wont qualify under the 107 percent rule.
This may prove to be a very important session, as rain is forecast for Practice Two later on Friday afternoon.
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