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First blood to Hamilton in Malaysian GP practice (VIDEO)

Mar 27, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first free practice session for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, underlining the strong pace of the Mercedes car at the beginning of the new season.

The British driver posted a fastest time of 1:40.691 to finish ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and teammate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes excelled once again, whilst Lotus endured another disastrous session at Sepang on Friday.

As we saw in Australia, the opening 30 minutes of the first practice session saw lots of drivers come out early thanks to the allocation of an extra set of tires for 2014, with the installation laps giving them the first chance to see how their cars are running. Esteban Gutierrez was the first driver to post a time after 15 minutes, and he was soon followed by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas among others.

After 30 minutes of running, Fernando Alonso sat at the top of the timesheets ahead of Kevin Magnussen, but the session was interrupted after Romain Grosjean’s Lotus stopped out on track. Thanks to some swift work from the marshals, the car was wheeled away safely under waved yellow flags, meaning that the session did not have to be red flagged.

Adrian Sutil also had a slight moment at pit entry as he spun his car through the gravel, but the German driver managed to keep his Sauber going and make it back to his garage. Having set an initial lap time and completed some set-up work, most of the drivers returned to the pits to talk to their engineers, leaving the track quiet at around the half-way point in the session.

With 40 minutes to go, a number of drivers got back out on track as Magnussen and Jean-Eric Vergne moved ahead of Alonso at the top of the standings whilst Kimi Raikkonen and Marcus Ericsson spun their cars, proving just how difficult the new cars area to handle. Having remained in the pits for much of the session, Sebastian Vettel finally posted his first lap time, albeit a slow one to leave him down in 16th place. He did improve a few laps later to move up into seventh place.

After setting the pace during the session, Magnussen’s day took a turn for the worse as his car came to a halt at pit entry, but he was able to get pushed by the marshals back to his garage.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of Magnussen’s setback to go fastest whilst teammate Fernando Alonso tested the limits of his car by spinning his car. Raikkonen’s sojourn in P1 lasted a matter of seconds as Lewis Hamilton went fastest of all, proving Mercedes’ pace with half an hour to go.

Pastor Maldonado finally made his way out onto the track with 20 minutes to go, but it lasted barely a lap as the car began to spew plumes of smoke from its engine. The E22 car eventually came to a halt at pit entry as Lotus once again struggled during practice with both cars.

In the final few minutes of the session, all of the drivers opted to focus on longer runs, meaning that the times remained relatively unchanged. However, with one minute to go, Hamilton took a trip through the gravel after making a mistake, proving that the Briton – despite being fastest – is by no means infallible.

  1. bscot968 - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:40 AM

    AGAIN NBCSN? No FP1, or FP2 coverage, not even just the streaming feed? WTH! Speed Channel, at least, gave us access to the feed from F1. I have written numerous times and I have not even been given the common decency of a response. I can’t imagine that it would be cost prohibitive, probably could even find a sponsor that would be happy to do so. So what gives?

    • bscot968 - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:43 AM

      Correction on missing practices, they are FP’ s #1 and #3.

    • testover6370 - Mar 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      I don’t think there is a lot of sponsorship money for practice at 3 AM. FP1 and FP2 were shown for the Australian weekend. Malaysia is unfortunately just a horrible time zone for the entire US. Australia was perfect for me, everything happened from about 10 PM to midnight in my timezone, but for this, everything is from 1 AM to 4 AM. I’d wait and see if coverage improves when the time slots improve.

  2. techmeister1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    NBCSN F1 coverage IMO – SUCKS !!! They bought the rights to F1 just to spite SPEED and NBCSN is doing a fine job of really pissing off long time F1 viewers. You can bet your arse that sponsors won’t be pleased when they see the viewer results or lack there of.

    • testover6370 - Mar 29, 2014 at 12:45 AM

      Or Speed, you know, doesn’t exist anymore. There’s that too. And Speed regularly showed only one practice, plus qualy and the race, just like NBCSN.

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