Mark Webber has set the fastest lap of the first practice session under hazy skies at Sepang, just edging out Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen.
Webber set a 1.36.935 early on in the session and was never really pressured, with Raikkonen setting a 1.37.003 late in the session after a KERS issue sidelined him for most of the practice. It continues on the good form by Lotus, who are looking for back to back wins to start 2013.
Webber’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel set the third quickest time, just edging out the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso in fourth. Nico Rosberg showed signs of pace for Mercedes again in fifth, while Adrian Sutil again impressed since his return in sixth place. The German had to pit with a front wing issue during the session, but set a 1.37.769, while his team-mate Paul di Resta made sure both Force India’s were in the top ten by finishing in eighth place.
Felipe Massa was seventh while Lewis Hamilton beat out Romain Grosjean to ninth place. Hamilton suffered tyre issues during the session which hampered his running, and he will be looking to close the gap to Rosberg in the second practice session this afternoon.
McLaren once again look like they are in trouble here in Malaysia after Jenson Button and Sergio Perez could only manage 11th and 13th. Button suffered a puncture and was forced to use another set of the hard compound Pirelli tyres, meaning he will have one less set for free practice 2. Pastor Maldonado showed some improvement for Williams by finishing in 12th, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas came in 16th.
In 14th and 15th came the two Sauber’s, with Nico Hulkenberg edging out Esteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez had a brief off during the session as he came up behind the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and was forced to brake hard and landed in the gravel. He recovered however and continued on. Alonso too suffered a severe lock up and ran wide, but suffered no issues due to the incident.
Toro Rosso look like they are struggling in Malaysia with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne only managing 17th and 18th. Ricciardo was a clear 1.2 seconds ahead of the nearest back marker of Giedo van der Garde, but close to three seconds off the fastest lap set by compatriot Webber.
Van der Garde took the back marker ‘honour’ of being fastest, just edging out the so far impressive Jules Bianchi in the Marussia. Charles Pic was 21st, while Max Chilton brought up the rear in 22nd place.
With clouds looming at Sepang and the searing heat continuing to make conditions uncomfortable, it looks to be an interesting second practice session.
(Images copyright Sutton & Getty Images)