A1 Team Germany's Nico Hulkenberg set the benchmark for the weekend's A1GP at Sepang, as he posted the the fastest times in both free practice sessions on Friday.

The 19-year-old set a stunning lap time of 1min 51.789secs on his first flying lap in the afternoon session, over three seconds quicker than last season's Sepang pole time. In a session interrupted by rain, Hulkenberg was over one second faster than China's Congfu Cheng and New Zealand's Jonny Reid.

The youngsters lack of experience of the circuit didn't hamper his speed as he also posted the fastest time in the morning's session to pip South Africa's Adrian Zaugg to the top by just 0.025secs as he looks to repeat his winning form from the season opener at Zandvoort.

"I think it was a good lap, but I have a car that is good not only for one lap but it is consistent," he said. "As a driver you have to look after your tyres for a long race, and I am looking forward to that, but practice is always something different and qualifying as well. However, today we looked pretty good. The heat is the big theme and I think it will be getting tough for the driver at the end of the races. I am looking forward to it and think we have a great car.

"This is a big difference to Beijing and another challenge. I liked Beijing a lot. I heard people who didn't like it but I liked the walls as it was like being in a cage, man against man and I liked the track a lot as you could push. However, here there is just one line and if you go off it mistakes are easy to make."

China's Frankie Cheng, sixth fastest in the morning's session, posted the second quickest time in the second practice, but his preparations were shortened after just a handful of laps when he ran wide into a gravel trap and became stuck. Cheng's early speed however proved key when the heavy rain fell midway through the hour and lap times dropped. New Zealand's Jonny Reid, back in the car for the first time since Brno, had a successful day's running, setting the fourth fastest time in the earlier practice and third in the afternoon.

Home team Malaysia also had a strong showing, with Fairuz Fauzy third in the morning's session, just 0.060secs slower than Hulkenberg. Team-mate Alex Yoong completed limited running before the rain fell in the later session to set the sixth quickest time.

"It is a disadvantage at the moment not being in the practice session but I hope as the weekend goes on it will prove not to be a disadvantage," he said. "Certainly for today it will be a disadvantage as for those who do not do the earlier session we do not get the best out of the tyres. In Nico's case he had a morning session and he came out and was strong.

"There is nothing to take away from Nico's lap. It was really a stunning lap and I don't think anyone could imagine beating that even if we had done the session. From driving we will find more time so I am sitting here thinking of that more than anything at the moment."



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