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Hamilton tops close session at Sepang

28 March 2014

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of a close first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix, edging out Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton's time of 1:40.691 put him 0.152s clear of the Ferrari. His session was not without incident, however, as he ran off-track late in FP1 after taking too much kerb approaching Turn 11. Speaking to the team on the radio after returning to the garage, Hamilton said: “There were lots of marbles out there, I lost grip and just ran a bit wide”.

Nico Rosberg was third qucikest in the sister Mercedes, just ahead of Jenson Button who was still within half a second of Hamilton's pace. McLaren was running a number of new parts including a new nose, and both cars ran competitively with Kevin Magnussen fifth on a 1:41.274.

Magnussen didn't have a completely smooth morning though as his McLaren stopped at the pit lane exit and took a few minutes to be pushed back to the garage by the marshals. Magnussen told the team over the radio that he had lost power approaching the final corner, with McLaren confirming the car had gone in to 'limp home' mode.

Sebastian Vettel was seventh quickest – behind the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne – but only managed to complete nine laps. He was ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and the two Williams cars, with Felipe Massa in ninth the last driver within a second of Hamilton.

Fernando Alonso had a high-speed spin at Turn 8 to highlight just how tricky the new cars are to drive, with Massa suffering an identical incident a few minutes later. Drivers were struggling for rear-end grip, with Esteban Gutierrez noticeably fighting his car throughout high-speed corners with the lack of downforce allied to the extra torque making the cars a real handful. Marcus Ericsson was another driver to push it too far, spinning at Turn 15.

There were also more struggles for Lotus, with Romain Grosjean stopping at Turn 10 on only his second lap of the session, although he re-emerged in the final ten minutes. That issue was compounded by Pastor Maldonado completing just an installation lap in the first 70 minutes, and when he emerged for a second lap he had to limp back to the pits with smoke emerging from the rear of the car.

Adrian Sutil appeared to still be unhappy with the brake-by-wire system in the Sauber as he ran off-track entering the pit lane, carrying too much speed and drifting wide before spinning on the grass in order to avoid hitting the wall.

Kamui Kobayashi also had more problems for Caterham, completing just five laps before an energy store issue forced the team to end his running for the morning in order to try and get the car ready for FP2.


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