KUALA LUMPAR, Malaysia — official series release — Clive Mason/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Mercedes set the pace as predicted as practice got underway in Malaysia on Friday, with Nico Rosberg lapping in 1:40.124 to rule the first session.
But it was a mixed morning for the Silver Arrows as Lewis Hamilton managed just four laps before his F1 W06 Hybrid rolled to a halt at Turn 9 before he had the chance to record a time.
The reigning world champion reported loss of power, and although he was confident he could have made it back to the pits, Mercedes, concerned that he was running a race engine, instructed him to stop on track. The car was subsequently recovered to the pits where Mercedes diagnosed an engine problem.
In the end, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen provided Rosberg’s fiercest opposition, lapping in 1:40.497 right at the end of the session to go second, just 0.373 seconds adrift of the German. The Finn’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel, also improved right at the end, recording a lap of 1:40.985 for third. It was interesting, however, that while Rosberg had long switched to some race running, the Ferraris were still pursuing outright speed.
Romain Grosjean gave Lotus a big boost with a solid fourth fastest time on 1:41.543, which just edged out the once again impressive Carlos Sainz Jr., who showed that there isn’t too much wrong with Renault’s power unit as he lapped in 1:41.596 for Toro Rosso. That once more outpaced Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, which the Australian took round in 1:41.787 to head Max Verstappen in the other STR10 on 1:41.803.
Williams had a tough morning, with the FW37s looking wayward as Valtteri Bottas set the eighth fastest time in 1:41.882 and Felipe Massa the 11th on 1:42.103, or else were pursuing their usual policy of race-tuning the cars rather than seeking fast times in the first session. They didn’t look as comfortable out on the track as the Ferraris, and to make matters worse the team were subsequently penalized by the stewards for Massa using his first set of hard tires for marginally longer than allowed.
Between the two Williams pilots, Daniil Kvyat lapped his Red Bull in 1:42.055 for ninth before complaining of issues with the brakes and power loss, as Marcus Ericsson spearheaded the Sauber challenge in 10th on 1:42.064.
Pastor Maldonado was one of many to have off-track moments as the surface slowly rubbered in, and was 12th in the second Lotus as rookie Raffaele Marciello clocked in 13th in a solid Friday morning session debut for Sauber. That left the Italian ahead of returnee Fernando Alonso on a 1:42.885 second lap for McLaren. Jenson Button, however, was an unhappy 17th.
Force India is still paying the price for their lack of pre-season testing with the VJM08; Nico Hulkenberg was 15th and Sergio Perez went off several times and sits just ahead of Button in 16th.
There was cheer when Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi followed Marcus Ericsson out on to the track at the start of the session, as Marussia finally turned in their first laps of the 2015 season. Stevens was within 107% of Rosberg’s time with his best lap, but Merhi finished just outside it after mechanical problems kept him in the garage for much of the session.
All drivers in the session ran exclusively on Pirelli’s hard tire.
CREDIT: Formula One