Malaysian GP: Webber on top after first free practice session at Sepang
By Berthold Bouman
Mark Webber took the honours for Red Bull this morning during the first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit. The Australian set a time of 1m36.935s, and was followed by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus who was just 0.068s slower than the Red Bull driver.
A few reliability concerns for Lotus, as Raikkonen spent almost an hour in the garage while his mechanics replaced the KERS battery. Sebastian Vettel was third in the other Red Bull RB9 and after completing 21 laps on the Malaysian circuit the triple World Champion was just 0.169s off the pace set by his team colleague.
Fernando Alonso was the fastest Ferrari driver, as he landed fourth spot, Brazilian Felipe Massa was seventh this morning, just 0.183s slower than the Spaniard. Nico Rosberg was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers and took fifth place, while Lewis Hamilton complained that his set of hard tyres had been completely destroyed. He finished the morning in ninth place.
Sutil again fastest Force India driver – Photo: Sahara Force India
Again an impressive practice run for Adrian Sutil, who once again showed that his team boss Vijay Mallya was right to hire him again, the German was sixth, but 0.834s behind pace setter Webber. Paul di Resta was also quick in the second Force India, he was eighth after completing 15 laps.
Romain Grosjean completed the top ten at Sepang, but again bad news for McLaren as Jenson Button didn’t get further than 11th place in the McLaren MP4-28, Sergio Perez was 13th. McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh had already predicted it would be a tough weekend, and by the looks of it he could be right.
Twelfth place was for Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, but he was 1.738s off the pace, also Williams needs a quick fix for the FW35, as rookie Valtteri Bottas was 16th in the second Williams.
Valtteri Bottas was 16th this morning – Photo: Williams F1
The two Sauber drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez took possession of 14th and 15th place respectively, also Sauber seems to be off the pace compared to the start of the 2012 season.
Further down the order were Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, they took 17th and 18th place for Toro Rosso. Giedo van der Garde was this time faster than his team colleague Charles Pic, the Dutchman was 19th, albeit 3.793s slower than Webber, while Pic was 21st this morning.
The last two on this morning’s list are both Marussia drivers, Jules Bianchi was 20th and half-a-second faster than Max Chilton, who was 22nd and last.