It wasn't the best of Friday practice sessions for Sauber, with another gearbox problem hitting the team's track time at Sepang, causing both cars to finish the two Friday practice sessions well outside of the top ten.

This time it was Kamui Kobayashi's car that was plagued with the gearbox reliability issue that first manifested itself last weekend at Australia on Sergio Perez' car, leaving the Japanese driver ruing the loss of much-needed practice time out on the circuit.

"It was a shame that I lost so much track time in the second session because of the gear box problem, but these things happen," he said, doing his best to stay philosophical ahead of Sunday's Malaysia Grand Prix.

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"This was obviously not an ideal start to the weekend," said Sauber's head of track engineering, Giampaolo Dall'Ara. "The reliability issue on Kamui's car didn't help, but we will keep working hard and do better tomorrow."

Dall'Ara admitted that "we have some work ahead of us to get the car's balance right here," with both cars suffering from tyre degradation and overall balance problems that proved hard to crack.

"It was the first time we have used the 2012 tyres in such high temperatures and the degradation is quite significant," said Kobayashi. "Probably this had an impact as well, but in any case we struggled with the balance of the car quite a lot today."

Kobayashi's team mate Sergio Perez also reported similar problems, radioing in at the end of FP1 that the car was "undrivable" by the end of his practice run.

"It was a difficult day in terms of setting up the car and getting the balance right," said Perez. "It was better on long runs than on single laps, we managed to achieve some improvements for the second free practice and now we will be looking carefully at the data tonight."

"We will have to improve for qualifying and the race, but I'm sure we can do that," agreed Kobayashi.