Formula One world championship driving leader Lewis Hamilton swirled to a chart-topping, if lurid, late-session fast lap Friday in second free practice for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-23. Photo...
Formula One world championship driving leader Lewis Hamilton swirled to a chart-topping, if lurid, late-session fast lap Friday in second free practice for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
McLaren Mercedes driver Hamilton, who circulated the 5.543-kilometer (3.44-mile) Sepang circuit in 1 minute, 35.055 seconds, led the Ferraris of Felipe Massa (1:35.206), and World Driving Champion Kimi Raikkonen (1:35.428). Running on the softer of Bridgestone's two tire compounds, Hamilton needed clever car control out of the final turn as his McLaren slithered to its quick lap.
In shaking off a disappointing season start in Australia the week before, the two Ferrari drivers earlier had jammed their way to the top of timing charts during the first of two Friday sessions.
Germany's Sebastian Vettel (1:36.474), the 20-year-old F1 wunderkind driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso, held fourth-best time for a goodly amount of the second practice before Honda veteran Jenson Button (1:36.037), bumped him to fifth late on. Vettel's STR2 suffered a brake disc disintegration in the first session.
Vettel's teammate, four-time Champ Car titlist Sebastien Bourdais, who nearly speared BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld coming out of the garage, quickly thereafter experienced a smoky failure labeled transmission to end his day.
Toyota veteran Jarno Trulli came sixth in 1:36.493, ahead of McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen (1:36.512), BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica (1:36.671), Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella (1:36.756), and Williams' Kazuki Nakajima (1:36.838), who rounded out the top 10.
Trulli moved himself ahead of Kovalainen in the final minutes of the session.
Fisichella's top-10 time bears out the Italian's pronouncements of promise for the Indian team that has changed hands four times in the past five years and for which Fisichella notched his first victory in the Jordan iteration. His teammate, Adrian Sutil fared less well as an engine failure put him afoul of the FIA regulation that engines last each driver two races. Sutil used his engine change in Australia. Sutil posted a second-session time of 1:37.614, good for 18th place.
Nakajima displaced teammate Nico Rosberg as the fast Williams pilot after the German reached fourth-best time in the early practice.
The Japanese driver will welcome a promise of speed heading into Saturday's qualifying. Nakajima needs to overcome a 10-place grid penalty incurred at Australia for bouncing into the back of Pole Kubica during a safety car period. The coming together put Kubica out of the race.
Rubens Barrichello (1:36.879) drove to 11th-best ahead of Rosberg (1:36.908), and BMW Sauber's Australia runner-up, Heidfeld (1:37.106). The Renaults of Fernando Alonso (1:37.328), and Nelson A. Piquet (1:37.331), were at 14th and 15th, falling off their times in the earlier session that put them in the top 10.
Mark Webber, whose Red Bull RB4 suffered an engine failure in the first session, eased through the second session with a best lap time of 1:37.346. His teammate, Scotsman David Coulthard, didn't participate in the second session; a steering failure resulted in both front suspensions breaking in the first session.
The team wanted to inspect the car and kept Coulthard out, and race stewards chose to call Red Bull team officials to a hearing to discuss the suspension failure. Coulthard's suspension was clouted in a collision with Massa during the Australian race and broke there as well.
Timo Glock (1:37.512), in the second Toyota followed Webber. Takuma Sato (1:39.021), and Anthony Davidson (1:39.361), brought up the rear for parts-shy Super Aguri.
In the morning's first free session, Ferraris ran solidly tops with Massa (1:35.392), ahead of Raikkonen (1:36.459). Rosberg's Williams (1:36.578), split the McLarens of Kovalainen (1:36.556) and Hamilton (1:36.626). The Renaults of Alonso (1:37.022), and Piquet (1:37.034), followed in sixth and seventh, ahead of Kubica's BMW Sauber (1:37.218), Button's Honda (1:37.282), and Trulli's Toyota (1:37.540)in the top 10.
Heidfeld (1:37.649), Nakajima (1:37.649), Barrichello (1:37.776), Glock (1:37.782.), Vettel (1:38.219), Coulthard (1:38.232), Webber (1:38.707), Bourdais (1:38.798), Fisichella (1:39.046), Sato (1:40.178), Davidson (1:40.351), and Sutil (1:41.269), rounded out the field.
Ferrari reported Raikkonen's F2008 ran out of gas on track in the first session and had to be craned away.
Hamilton, Vettel and Heidfeld had offs in the first session as drivers continue to adapt to cars without traction control or engine braking.