ROSBERG SETS THE PACE: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg put in the fastest lap of first practice on March 27 for the 2015 Malaysian F1 GP. AFP< / Moed Rasfan
SEPANG, Malaysia - Nico Rosberg dominated the first free practice session ahead of the 2015 Malaysian Formula 1 GP on Friday (March 27) but Mercedes was left scratching its corporate head after team mate Lewis Hamilton had a major engine problem.
Rosberg clocked 1min40.124 around the 5.54km Sepang International Circuit (Hamilton's qualifying time in 2014 was 1min559.431) to finish ahead of the resurgent Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel on a sweltering morning in Malaysia.
MARUSSIA ON TRACK AT LAST
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso enjoyed a smooth return to action after missing the season-opening race in Australia due to a concussion caused by a crash during testing in Spain. He completed 20 laps to finish 14th on the time sheet after 90 minutes of action.
The session was also notable for Manor Marussia which, despite setting the slowest times of the morning, was able to get its modified 2014 cars out on the track after failing to even manage that in Melbourne.
Up at the business end of the field it was a bittersweet session for Mercedes which would have been happy to see Rosberg finish 0.373sec clear of Raikkonen but disappointed that 2014 F1 champion Hamilton's stint ended prematurely.
The Briton halted at the Turn Nine hairpin after starting the session without telemetry. He said there was an issue at the rear of the car and stopped without setting a timed lap.
'NO TELEMETRY, MATE'
Hamilton, who led a Mercedes 1-2 in the season-opening race, told his team by radio: "There was a click in the rear. The gears still worked but I pulled over and stopped as you told me to. I would have made it back.”
Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington responded: "We have no telemetry, mate, so we're just a bit worried about this as it's a race engine. We don't want to risk it.”
The stricken Mercedes was eventually returned to the garage on a flat-bed truck and quickly stripped down by mechanics who set about repairing Hamilton's engine ahead of the second session.
Mercedes, with only four power units available for the 19-race season, will be hoping to recover the initial engine to compete in at least three or four more grands prix or the team could be on course to face a penalty for exceeding its annual quota.
WILLIAMS DISAPPOINTED AGAIN
Technical director Paddy Lowe said in a trackside interview later: "There is a hardware problem that we need to fix so we don't know exactly what we are going to do yet. We need to do some investigations in the next few minutes to decide what we are going to do for P2."
Of the other teams, Williams will be disappointed with its session as Valterri Bottas, also returning from injury, could manage only eighth-fastest, team mate Felipe Massa only 11th.
Daniel Ricciardo got his under-performing Red Bull up into sixth although the Australian did complain of "weak traction" over his radio.
The second 90-minute session was due to start 0600 GMT.
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Malaysian F1 GP weekend.
Malaysia 2015 first practice times1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 1min40.124
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari - 1min40.497
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari - 1min40.985
4 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus-Mercedes - 1min41.543
5 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso-Renault - 1min41.596
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault - 1min41.787
7 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso-Renault - 1min41.803
8 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes-1min41.882
9 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull-Renault - 1min42.055
10 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber-Ferrari - 1min42.064
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes - 1min42.103
12 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus-Mercedes - 1min42.567
13 Raffaele Marciello (Italy) Sauber-Ferrari - 1min42.621
14 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren-1min42.885
15 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India-Mercedes - 1min42.893
16 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India-Mercedes 1min43.054
17 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 1min43.100
18 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia-Ferrari - 1min46.686
19 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia-Ferrari - 1min47.683
20 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - No time