McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton needed less than an hour of the first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday to show that he will be the man to beat in this weekend’s race.
The 2008 world champion raced to the finish achieving the fastest time of the 90-minute session that took place just south of Kuala Lampur clocking one minute, 38.021 seconds to beat the rest of the contenders by more than half a second.
As Red Bull and Ferrari struggled for pace, Hamilton topped the time sheets again in a marginally slower time with McLaren and Mercedes primed to battle it out for pole.
Hamilton told reporters that “The car’s been quite good. Made some set-up changes which I’m much happier with and now just focusing on the long run pace. I didn’t get too many laps but its definitely working – it feels good at the moment.”
World champion, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing was second fastest with a time of 1:38.535, just ahead of the Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, who were separated by just 13 hundreths of a second.
However, Vettel complained over the team radio that his Red Bull “was all over the place” as he could only set the 10th fastest time, more than a second behind Hamilton.
The drivers used the opportunity from both sessions to gauge tyre degradation around the demanding Sepang circuit and with times slowing by around a second after 10 laps, pit stop strategy for Sunday’s race will be a key factor in determining the eventual winner.
Hamilton continued, “With this track obviously you’ve got two very long straights so overtaking is probably a little bit more possible than in the last race but still, starting from the front is a much better position to be in and so that’s what I’m going for.”