Hamilton fastest in both practice sessions in Malaysia

The 2008 World Champion was fastest in both Friday Practice sessions, heading Sebastian Vettel in the first with Mercedes Michael Schumacher in the second.

Team mate Jenson Button was third fastest in the second practice session.

Mercedes showed strong pace finishing third and fourth in the first session , while in the second session the duo were second and fourth.

Schumacher: “We also know that everyone works on different programmes on Fridays, so I would guess we have not seen everything yet. We are very much aware that we should not be too optimistic about today’s outcome.”

Rosberg: “We’ve had a decent start today at one of our home races here in Malaysia, so I’m quite happy,” said Nico at the end of the second practice session today. “We learned a lot about how to use our tyres, and I feel things are going in the right direction but I don’t know where we are compared to the others. It will be very interesting how we can manage the situation on Sunday.”

In the second session Red Bull appeared to be struggling, Vettel said on the team radio that the car was ‘un-driveable’, especially on the medium tyres. The German finished tenth, with team mate Mark Webber seventh.  Vettel has also been given a €400 penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Ferrari also appeared to struggle during the first practice session,   as both driver’s were way down the field in thirteenth and fifteenth. Alonso did manage to improve in the second session, moving up to sixth. The Spanish driver during long runs showed good race pace,  close to that of the Red Bull’s and McLaren ‘s. He will therefore be hoping to reverse the current fortunes being experienced by Ferrari.

Alonso: “This morning we did a lot of work on comparing different aerodynamic configurations, which was a bit like putting together a puzzle, trying to find the best combination. In the afternoon, we then moved on to the usual Friday job with the tyres, running with various different fuel levels on board. I would say that on this front, both the Mediums and the Hards seem to behave reasonably well, both in terms of performance on the first lap and when it comes to degradation on a long run. We gathered a lot of useful information which will allow us to be ready for the rest of the weekend. It did not rain today, but we know that here a storm can arrive without a moment’s notice and so we need to be ready for every eventuality.”

Massa: “Fernando and I were on rather different programmes from each other and that is the main reason for the difference on the time sheet. In the afternoon in particular, we went in completely different directions which in my case did not work, but at least it allowed me to understand a few important things about the handling of the car. Now my engineers and I know what is the right direction to go in, which makes me feel more optimistic for qualifying compared to how I felt about it last week in Melbourne. Clearly, at the moment, our car is not yet competitive at the highest level. Do I feel any special pressure? No, no more than usual: at Ferrari we are always under pressure. The important thing is to understand what did not work in Melbourne and I think we have everything in hand to do that.”

At Lotus, Romain Grosjean finished ninth in the second practice session, while the returning 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen was a disappointing fifteenth.  Lotus decided to change anti-roll bar on the Finn’s E20 during the second practice session.

Williams had a productive day of running, with Pastor Maldonado finishing eleventh and Senna seventeenth.  Reserve driver Valtteri Bottas got behind of the FW34 in the first practice, finishing eleventh.

Maldonado: “We’ve had a good day of running in Malaysia. The team have done a great job and we completed our test programme without any problems. The car looks consistent and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. It will be a challenge to get into Q3, but I will be pushing hard to achieve that.”

Senna: “We had more work to do this afternoon having not run in P1, but our pace on longer runs looked good. We still need to improve throughout P3 tomorrow morning, but we have a good direction to go in. The track is very different to Australia and it will be a long, tough race but I am looking forward to it.”

Bottas:” I am only the ninth Finnish person ever to drive during a Grand Prix weekend, which is a nice fact that I’ve just found out. After testing in Barcelona, my focus was on coming here and I’ve prepared myself as I would for a race weekend, both physically and mentally. I had a good rhythm from the beginning of P1 and we completed our programme ahead of P2. It was so hot out there, the hardest conditions I’ve driven in. While you are driving you don’t feel it as much but as soon as you stop the heat really hits you. “

Toro Rosso Drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne finished fifth and eighth respectively.

At Caterham, Vitaly Petrov finished nineteenth with Heikki Kovalainen twenty-first.

Petrov:: “We worked through the normal Friday runplans and for me it was a pretty good day. The grip levels this morning were not good, but I think that was the same for most of the teams, but this afternoon we had found some improvements, even though the track itself had lost some of the grip from this morning. We have a couple of areas to focus on tonight, particularly looking at maximising traction, but I’m reasonably pleased with where we have ended up.”

Kovalainen:  “I think today proved what we suspected, that managing tyre degradation is going to be critical to performance on Sunday. This morning we tried a couple of setup options that didn’t really work too well but we made some changes over lunch and straight away this afternoon the car felt better. I had more grip and was able to manage the tyres well over the second run we did so I think we’ve found some improvements where we wanted to today and have a base to work on tonight.”

Marussia continued to make progress in  trying to understand their 2012 car, focusing on set-up and aerodynamic evaluations. Timo Glock, finished the second session twentieth and Charles Pic twenty-second.

Glock: “Today has been a pretty good day for us I have to say. This is one of the toughest Fridays of the season for the whole team and they did a great job. Our programme meant we had to do a lot of work on the car and the guys were constantly on the ‘go’. We still have some way to go; the car is not perfect yet by any means. We have however made a lot of progress so we need to keep this up for tomorrow. The tyres look quite difficult over a race distance, so that could be a gamble. As for the heat, my fitness work over the winter has paid off for sure. It’s been a good start and good reliability again.”

Pic: “It has been a very interesting day for me today. We had a big programme to work through to put the car through the track testing we are catching up with right now, but the results have been very positive and I am happy with the steps we have brought to the car. It’s not easy for the team working in the heat here; it has been a long day for everybody. Now we have a lot of information to take into tomorrow and I will also have the new rear floor parts to try, so I’m looking forward to that. A very good job by everyone and my thanks to them.”

HRT will be attempting to qualify under the 107% rule this weekend, after failing to so last weekend in Melbourne. Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan stopped half way through the morning session due to hydraulic issue . At the end of the second session he also entered into a spin on the final , after a piece of late braking.

Karthikeyan : “In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we’ve also got some cooling issues too. In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasn’t able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that we’re within the 107% time and can continue to improve and be in better conditions. I definitely felt the difference with regards to Australia but we need a lot more. This is one of the hardest races of the year so we’re going to need to work hard to be able to have a good performance”.

Pedro de la Rosa: “Today has been a positive day for us because it panned out with the normality of a practice session day, and that in itself is good news. For the first time we were able to try out different solutions on this car: the DRS is working, the power steering has improved from Australia and, although we’re not where we would like to be, we’ve taken a considerable step forward. The sensations improved as the day wore on and the car behaved better from the morning to the afternoon. There’s still plenty to do, but the general evaluation for the day is positive”.

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