Lewis Hamilton completed a practice hat-trick as Mercedes power locked out the first four positions in today’s second session for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s time of one minute 38.021secs posted in the initial 90 -minute outing at the Sepang International Circuit remained good enough to lead the way.
Hamilton was only marginally slower in the afternoon by 0.151secs as the teams opted for longer runs rather than going for outright pace.
But it is now three in a row for Hamilton in his McLaren as he was also quickest in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix last weekend prior to grabbing pole for that event at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
It was not all plain sailing for the Briton, however, as he aims to rebound from the disappointment he so publicly displayed on Sunday when he could only finish third behind team-mate Jenson Button and reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel.
There were a couple of minor offs, but arguably only as Hamilton found the limits of the track in tandem with becoming accustomed to the Pirelli tyres as a number of drivers complained of a lack of grip in the afternoon compared to the morning.
Ominously for the rest of the field, though, the Mercedes engine appears strong as the 27-year-old was followed by Michael Schumacher for the works team, the seven-times champion trailing by 0.361secs.
Button, who suffered a KERS failure that curtailed his running in the morning to just 15 laps, finished third, just two thousandths of a second behind Schumacher, whilst Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was fourth on the timesheet, just over half a second off Hamilton.
The best of the rest was Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso, whilst with a new and seemingly improved front wing, Fernando Alonso elevated his Ferrari up to sixth, 0.719secs off the pace.
As for the Red Bulls, they appear to be struggling as Mark Webber was down in seventh and Vettel 10th, the latter 1.230secs down.
However, as with any practice running on a Friday we are yet to see the best of the cars and drivers, albeit in tough conditions with temperatures hitting 30 degrees centigrade and with humidity at 62%.
Sandwiching the Red Bull duo were Jean-Eric Vergne in his Toro Rosso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen 15th, 1.5secs down.
It proved to be a wretched afternoon for Paul di Resta in his Force India as he twice spun off track as he clearly struggled with the tyres.
The Scot ultimately finished 13th, just behind team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, and 1.453secs down, whilst Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was a miserable 16th and two seconds behind, doing little to ease talk regarding his tenuous future with the team.
Again at the rear were the HRT duo of Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa, both around 5.5secs slower than Hamilton, and again on course to miss the 107% time in qualifying.