Sepang: 1, 2, 3…Qually

Free Practice 1

  • Ferrari: Both drivers were cruising around the track in typical Ferrari fashion and refusing to show their hand this early. Both were gathering data. Massa may have had issues with his front wing, and didn’t set a time until deep into the session.
  • Force India: Hulkenberg proving a point with a healthy P4. Sutil ends up in P11.
  • Hispania: Explosive start, Narain Karthikeyan’s engine went ‘pop’ almost immediately after leaving the pits. Liuzzi easily goes a second faster than his teammate.
  • Lotus: Trulli outpaces reserve Valsecchi.
  • McLaren: Hamilton came second but was still off the pace compared to P1. Button having issues with his rear end grip and came in at P15.
  • Mercedes: Schumacher had a few issues with locking front wheels, but pulled out a respectable P3. Quiet time for Rosberg down in 10th.
  • Red Bull: Excellent showing from Mark Webber who dominated the session early on by being 1.665 seconds ahead of the rest. Vettel had his foot off the gas.
  • Renault: Major issues with a locking front right for Heidfeld, drove it back to the pits without it unlocking. Petrov ended up in the gravel with a suspension failure (front left) with an ice pack for his hand.
  • Sauber: Kobayashi nips in ahead of Button, Perez hangs behind Vettel.
  • Toro-Rosso: Ricciardo (in for Buemi) pulled just ahead of Alguersuari who was pushing hard.
  • Williams: Maldonado has a good time and earns a P5. Barrichello had a few wobbles, but gets ahead of Alonso.
  • Virgin: Glock was around 4.2 seconds off the pace. D’Ambrosio finished early with a tyre going missing echoing Renault’s issues, with a broken wishbone.

Top FP1 times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:37.651
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:39.316
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:39.791

Full Results

Free Practice 2:

  • Ferrari: Despite calls that they are just doing damage limitation in these sessions, Massa split the two Mercedes’ and got ahead of Alonso.
  • Force India: Taking the car back from Hulkenberg, di Resta was ahead of Sutil for much of session. Missing 1.5 hours seems not to have bothered him.
  • Hispania: Both drivers went out, and both set a time. More surprisingly, neither were holding up the bottom. However Karthikeyan got a speeding ticket, which sends a struggling team a rather large fine.
  • Lotus: Kovalainen sets the slowest time at 7/8 seconds off the pace off the leader. Trulli saves face by getting ahead off the Hispania drivers.
  • McLaren: Button edges out teammate Hamilton who couldn’t catch up on his hot laps.
  • Mercedes: Schumacher briefly held the top spot and came away with an impressive P4, Rosberg manged 6th.
  • Red Bull: Another strong session for Webber as head leads the timings ahead of both McLarens. Vettel is edged out of the top three by Hamilton.
  • Renault: The team skipped lunch to fix both stricken R31 cars. Heidfeld with something to prove got ahead of Alonso, Petrov languished in the midfield.
  • Sauber: Had a fair showing coming off the back of a disappointing showing in Melbourne.
  • Toro-Rosso: Alguersuari had a good session just getting into that magical top 10. Buemi was down in 18th.
  • Williams: Embarrassing spin off into the barriers for Maldonado as his comes into the pits, but still finishes ahead of the vastly more experienced Barrichello.
  • Virgin: D’Ambrosio failed to clock a time due to ongoing repairs to his injured car. Glock goes top of last year’s rookie teams

Top FP2 times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:36.876
2 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.881
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:37.010

Full Results

Free Practice 3:

  • Ferrari: Both start this session about 7 seconds off the pace, and have admitted they are struggling. Curious. End the session in P6 for Alonso and P8 for Massa.
  • Force India: Paul di Resta spinning twice on a lap losing the rear wing forced him below Sutil for the first time this weekend.
  • Hispania: A smokey moment from Karthikeyan and Liuzzi managed a few laps towards the end. These times would see them both out of qualification.
  • Lotus: Good session for both drivers with both ahead of last years rookie teams.
  • McLaren: Button looked like he was skating during a fast lap but got pipped by Mark Webber and eventual session leader teammate Lewis Hamilton.
  • Mercedes: Schumacher set an early fast time, but both drivers ended up right in the middle of the table due to rear wing issues.
  • Red Bull: Vettel suffered rear wing issues half way through the sessions, it opens, but complained it wasn’t stalling properly, he also loses his camera. Webber goes P2 after a few late laps.
  • Renault: Heidfeld gets ahead of Petrov after a thankfully crisis-less session
  • Sauber: Perez complained about his brake balance and Kobayashi about traction
  • Toro-Rosso: Uneventful hour for the race lineup. Buemi and Alguersuari separated by Barrichello.
  • Williams: Mixing up down the field with STR/FI.
  • Virgin: 5 seconds off the pace, but a couple of seconds ahead of Hispania.

Top FP3 times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:36.340
2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:36.630
3 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.762

Full Results

Qualifying:

There has been a lot of focus of Sauber and the issue with their rear wing discrepancy since we left Melbourne two weeks ago, James Key had a quick chat with the BBC and explained they were 4mm out. But keeping up with the green credentials of the sport’s future, he told Jake Humphrey that they’re taking it back to factory to be brought inline with the regulations.

Mark Webber also has a lot to prove this weekend, and has to be close to Vettel at the very least. Producing strong times on Friday piles on the pressure to commit to a decent qualifying session. McLaren have big questions to answer and Ferrari are already sending carefully timed tweets about ‘damage limitation’.

So we start with everyone at the top of the hour, split into 3 sections, Q1-3, dropping 7 in each of the first two (Q1 and Q2) before the last ten shoot it out for pole position. But before we get down to Q1, Eddie Jordan’s shirt deserves a mention, he looked like a cross between Mr Blobby and a jockey competing in today’s Grand National.

First eight minutes go without a big name on the track, but within minutes of Vettel and Hamilton joining Q1 the sidepod covering from Buemi’s Toro Rosso departed the car. Session is red flagged and everyone returns to their respective garages. Massa goes top in Q1, with Hamilton and Alonso completing the top 3. Red Bull seemingly off the pace (Webber P15, Vettel P10), they are quickly accused of sandbagging.

Out in Q1 are: MAL, KOV, TRU, GLO, DAM, LIU and KAR, but all are within the 107% rule.

Q2 begins with a McLaren and Red Bull tussle for supremacy, McLaren’s KERS system is fully online and functional, whereas Red Bull has had some teething problems. Schumacher makes an uncomfortable call through to his engineer about a ‘target time’, and prepared to go around again. However it made no difference as teammate Rosberg bumped him out of contention for a go at pole position.

Out in Q2 are: SCH, BUE, ALG, DIR, BAR, PER, SUT

Q3 is the shoot out, nothing is left on the table and they have nothing but that pole position to play for. All they have is a mere 10 minutes to make their mark and this one went to the wire. McLaren have discovered a vast amount of pace today which must have Red Bull concerned, Hamilton produces the fastest lap this weekend. But it’s not long before he’s almost under pressure from Vettel, who manages second. But it’s not until the dying seconds of Q3 that it really heats up. With one lap left in the bank, Hamilton and Webber are on the hottest laps we’ve seen so far but both are extinguished by Vettel.

Top Qualifying times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:34.870
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:34.974
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:35.179

Full Results

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