McLaren Sets the Pace in Malaysia
McLaren continued from where they left off in Australia as Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets in both of the day’s practice sessions. Team mate Jenson Button was not far away although his day was plagued by mechanical issues. However, with the rest of the weekend forecast to be wet, today’s dry laps may have limited use. At the back of the grid, meanwhile, HRT recovered from a difficult first session to be comfortably inside 107% of Hamilton’s best lap meaning that all twelve teams are likely to be cleared to start on Sunday, however qualifying turns out. Unfortunately for Kimi Raikonnen, he had to change his Lotus’ gearbox meaning he will start five places further back on the grid.
Off track politics have started raising their ugly heads again but closer to home, Felipe Massa is under close scrutiny. Ferrari struggled in Australia but the Brazilian particularly so, leading to many in the press, especially in Italy, to already start speculating about when he will be replaced. In response, Ferrari have elected to change his chassis to see if it was a factor in his performance. Ferrari have tried to play down the situation by declaring that the “choice was taken to clear up any doubts about the unusual performance of his car during the weekend at Albert Park.” However, where does that leave The Scuderia if Massa’s woes continue in the new chassis?
Lewis Hamilton is focussed firmly on both a good grid position and turning that into a race victory. “I’m working as hard as I can to have as good a qualifying set-up as my race set-up and I think we’ve got a bit more of an understanding of how the car works on heavy fuel,” said the McLaren driver.
On the defensive, Felipe Massa was quick to explain the discrepancy between his and Fernando Alonso’s lap times today. “Fernando and I were on rather different programmes from each other and that is the main reason for the difference on the time sheet,” explained the Brazilian. “In the afternoon in particular, we went in completely different directions which in my case did not work, but at least it allowed me to understand a few important things about the handling of the car.”
Narain Karthikeyan is hopeful of starting his first race of 2012. “In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we’ve also got some cooling issues too,” mused the HRT driver. “In the afternoon these issues persisted on turns 13 and 14 where I wasn’t able to select the gears properly but the important thing is that we’re within the 107% time and can continue to improve and be in better condition.”
Kimi Raikkonen was giving too much away at Lotus although he is confident that they can do well this weekend, despite having to take a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox. “It was an okay day but we still have work to do on the set-up,” explained the Finn. “The steering was a small improvement but we are still working in this area… I hope we will make some progress tomorrow as the car is quicker than we’ve shown.”
Remarkably for the first race of the year, last week we all correctly predicted the podium line-up but only Pat had them in the right order putting our guest predictors in to an early lead. This week’s guest predictor is Leigh of The F1 and Motorsports Archive. a top site for opinion not just on Formula One but a whole range of motorsports events – it’s a great starting point for dipping your toe into the range of feeder series. Leigh thinks that “this may be one of Webber’s few chances this year to nail it.” Meanwhile “Button will just have one of those off races, while Vettel will suffer rare car failure.” You heard it here first.
|Mav||1. Hamilton||2. Button||3. Vettel|
|Salti||1. Hamilton||2. Vettel||3. Raikkonen|
|Guest||1. Webber||2. Hamilton||3. Raikonnen|
Scores: Mav – 5 points, Salti – 7 points, Guests – 9 points, Top Guest – Pat with 9 points
Three points for a driver finishing in the predicted position with one point less for each position away.
Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes