Hamilton sets early Sepang pace

2012-03-23 08:43

SEPANG, Malaysia - McLaren's Lewis Hamilton needed less than an hour of the first free practice session for the 2012 Malaysian F1 GP to show that he will be a favourite for this weekend's race.

The 2008 World champion set the fastest time of the 90-minute session at 1min38.021 to beat the rest of the field by more than half a second.

World champion Sebastian Vettel was second fastest (1min38.535), marginally ahead of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher who were separated by onl 0.013sec.


The drivers used the session to gauge tyre degradation around the demanding Sepang circuit and, with times slowing by around a second after 10 laps, pit-stop strategy for the race will vital in determining the eventual winner.

McLaren locked up the front row in the season-opening race in Melbourne a week earlier and Jenson Button won comfortably. Hamilton was third.

Button is having a far bumpier ride in Malaysia. The 2009 champion, who won here that year, struggled with an oil leak that limited his session to 15 laps in which he could only post ninth-fastest, 1.302sec slower than Hamilton.

Romain Grosjean proved his third place on the grid in Australia was no fluke with another strong showing in his Lotus, overcoming problems with his rear wing to clock the fifth-fastest time, 0.898sec off Hamilton.

Vettel's Red Bull team mate Mark Webber was sixth fastest, a little over a second behind Hamilton, with former World champion Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the top seven places in the second Lotus.


Ferrari's early season woes continued as Felipe Massa, fitted with a brand new chassis, could only manage 13th with team mate Fernando Alonso crawling around two places further down the field.

Both cars were more than two seconds behind Hamilton.

HRT is in danger of being disqualified from the March 25 race, as it did the previous Sunday, with Narain Karthikeyan, who only managed eight laps before stopping with a hydraulics failure, and Pedro de la Rosa lapping more than seven seconds off the pace.

Both cars set times marginally outside than the 107% time limit behind the leader that if they duplicated in qualifying on Saturday would omit them from the grid.

First free practice times from the 2012 Malaysian Formula 1 GP

1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min38.021 seconds
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull 1min38.535
3 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min38.813
4 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min38.826
5 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min38.919
6 Mark Webber (Australia) RedBull 1min39.092
7 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min39.128
8 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India1min39.298
9 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min39.323
10 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min39.440
11 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min39.724
12 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min39.783
13 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min39.896
14 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min39.910
15 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min39.980
16 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min40.099
17 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min40.247
18 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min40.469
19 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min40.857
20 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Ferrari 1min41.085
21. Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min43.170
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min44.580
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min45.360
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min45.528

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