McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton topped both Friday practice sessions ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix on a day that saw Mercedes-engined cars dominating the running order.
Hamilton was quickest in the morning with a time of 1:38.021, half a second quicker than Sebastian Vettel who in turn was three-tenths up on the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. However, the afternoon session saw all four of the top spots taken by Mercedes power with Hamilton’s time of 1:38.172 being comfortably quicker than Schumacher in second, Jenson Button third in the second McLaren and Rosberg fourth.
The fastest non-Mercedes runner in the afternoon was the surprise name of Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso. “It’s been a good day for me,” said Hamilton. "We’ve made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race and I’m much happier – but we’ll still be making changes to improve our long-run pace, which can always be better. “Around here, overtaking will be a little more possible than in Melbourne. Nevertheless, starting from the front will still be the best position for the race, and that’s what I’ll be going for tomorrow."
Schumacher, while pleased with Mercedes’ performance, sounded a note of caution: “We had a good day on track today, and I am very happy about the work that has been done since Australia. This has enabled us to achieve reasonably consistent long runs which is obviously important in these conditions. Saying that, we also know that everyone works on different programmes on Fridays, so I would guess we have not seen everything yet. We are very much aware that we should not be too optimistic about today's outcome.”
Vettel, a winner here in 2010 and 2011 but down in tenth for FP2 this time was sanguine about the pace of the Red Bull and his chances of completing a hat-trick of victories, admitting the team had work to do before qualifying: “I would love to be a bit higher up this afternoon, but all in all we had decent running today – although there is still a lot to do. The tyres drop off quite quickly here, which is the same for all the drivers, but I think we are sliding quite a bit and I would like the car to be a bit more stable. We made a good step today, the potential is there, but we need to get to it. We will see what we can do tomorrow.”
Stablemate Ricciardo, however, was very happy with his showing, on a track he’s not driven in the real world since competing in Formula BMW. He emphasised how dissimilar Sepang would be compared with Albert Park, and therefore how much effort the teams needed to put into changing the characteristics of their cars. “Much of our work today centred on adapting the car to the very different track characteristics here compared to Melbourne and the biggest difference of course is the temperature. The tyres have to work harder in these conditions and therefore getting the car balance right is crucial.”