Hamilton fastest as Sepang weekend begins

Hamilton fastest as Sepang weekend begins

28 March 2014 – Lewis Hamilton set the standard during the opening free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday morning. The Mercedes driver clocked a best time of 1:40.691 to lead Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen by 0.152 seconds, while team-mate and Melbourne race winner Nico Rosberg completed the top three.

Amid typically hot and humid weather conditions, the field made good use of Pirelli's additional set of Hard compound tyres, available to the drivers during the first half an hour of the 90-minute session.

Fernando Alonso led the way for Ferrari at this stage, having clocked a 1:42.930. But when the switch to the standard set of Hard tyres arrived and run plans changed, his advantage was quickly eroded.

Räikkönen displaced his team-mate as the session developed, before Hamilton rose to the fore with a 1:40.723, and later found another three hundredths of a second to consolidate his position.

Rosberg took third in the second Silver Arrows machine, ahead of McLaren duo Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, the latter hindered slightly when his engine cut out around an hour into the session.

After his team's impressive performance in Australia, Jean-Éric Vergne took sixth for Toro Rosso, just ahead of reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who was restricted to nine laps in his Red Bull.

Although team-mate Sergio Pérez failed to post a lap time amid technical troubles, Nico Hülkenberg gave Force India cause for optimism in eighth. Williams duo Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

Early pace-setter Alonso slipped to 11th, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second of the Red Bulls.

There were numerous off-track moments during the session, with Hamilton, Alonso, Massa, Adrian Sutil and Marcus Ericsson all suffering spins as the drivers tried to get to grips with their new cars on an open layout.

Lotus's torrid start to the season continued during the first session of the weekend, with Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean – who, like Pérez, did not post hot laps – bringing up the rear after respective stoppages.

Friday's second practice session at Sepang gets underway at 2pm local time (GMT +8)

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