Posts Tagged ‘Michael Schumacher’

Webber was fastest in both practice sessions

Mark Webber completed a Friday practice double after narrowly beating Jenson Button to the top of the time-sheets in Malaysia.

Webber, 34, was only five-thousands of a second quicker than the 2009 world champion when the chequered flag dropped.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel ensured a Red Bull-McLaren lockout at the front by winding up third and fourth respectively.

Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher was fifth ahead of Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso struggled to ninth fastest.

But it was Webber’s day as he set the fastest lap in both morning and afternoon practice sessions although the second practice was much tighter after having obliterated the field earlier in the day.

Webber played down his ominous weekend form and said there was still a long way to go.

But Hamilton was more pessimistic about his chances and said Red Bull still hold a significant advantage over the chasing pack.

“I think Red Bull are always blowing smoke up other people. I’m sure they have got half a second at least to pull out tomorrow.

“Red Bull are using KERS now this weekend, so that cancels the advantage that we may have had,” said Hamilton.

Ferrari endured a frustrating day throughout as Massa and Alonso finished sixth and ninth respectively in both sessions.

“A difficult day in Sepang” and “far away from the leaders” was how the Italian team described their Friday running on Twitter.

Alonso was downbeat about his chances of a good result this weekend but remained optimistic for the rest of the season.

“Obviously we know that we need to keep working tonight, to keep changing what we can improve in the car, and be more competitive tomorrow.

“This is only the start of the season. We are not quick enough to fight for the win and pole position, but that does not mean that we have to throw in the towel,” Alonso said.

Mercedes enjoyed a better day with Schumacher twice in the top-five.

“We definitely made a step in the right direction. We were closer to our level of performance from Barcelona than in Melbourne and I am hopeful there will be more to come,” said the seven-time world champion.

Team Principal Ross Brawn said: “We have had a much better day here than we experienced in Melbourne. There are some issues which we need to look into and resolve but it is, without doubt, a more positive start to the race weekend.”

Hispania endured another difficult day at the other end of the grid. Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi both suffered technical failures and ended up bottom of the standings.

But in the second session Karthikeyan did set a time within 107% of Webber’s which would be good enough to allow him to race on Sunday.

“Feels good to get some running. Lot of work to be done, but feel positive for qualifying! Glad to be within the 107%,” he tweeted.

Webber was in a class of one

Red Bull once again set the pace during an eventful Friday’s first free practice session as Mark Webber obliterated the field in Malaysia.

The Australian’s lap of 1.37.651 was a full 1.6 seconds quicker than Lewis Hamilton in second place.

Michael Schumacher demonstrated Mercedes’ pre-weekend confidence by taking third ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado who both impressed.

Ferrari pair Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were sixth and ninth, sandwiching Renault’s Nick Heidfeld and the second Williams of Rubens Barrichello. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg rounded out the top-ten.

World champion Sebastian Vettel finished in a lowly seventeenth, nearly four seconds off the pace.

For Webber out in front the session progressed serenely as he strung together a series of fastest laps.

But many of his rivals struggled to cope with the slippery Sepang track. Hamilton, Alonso and Sauber’s Sergio Perez all took to the grass in the latter stages.

Early pacesetter Nick Heidfeld lost valuable practice time after he suffered brake failure going into the first corner. After topping the timesheets his Renault’s right-front locked solid and the German had to limp back to the pits.

Heidfeld had to sit out the rest of the session as the team were unable to fix the brakes in the hour remaining.

Team-mate Vitaly Petrov fared little better as he sat out the first hour with a problem at the rear of the car. When he did get out he crashed almost immediately under braking at turn nine when the front-left of his car exploded.

Virgin’s Jerome d’Ambrosio suffered an almost identical crash in the last two minutes of the session at the final corner. The front-right suspension appeared to snap under braking as he overtook a slow Hispania pitching him into the gravel trap.

Both Renault and Virgin have extensive rebuilds to do before the second practice session which gets underway at 7am (BST).

Rosberg was in the points when hit by Barrichello

Mercedes are hopeful that the Malaysian Grand Prix will kick-start their 2011 season after making a stuttering start in Australia two weeks ago.

In Melbourne Michael Schumacher retired early on with mechanical failure and Nico Rosberg’s race was cut short after Rubens Barrichello ploughed into the side of his car.

But the team are hopeful that Malaysia will bring about a change of fortune for the team, who twice topped the timesheets at the final pre-season test in Barcelona last month.

“There is absolutely no doubt we want to do better than in the opening race, which was a disappointment for all of us,” said seven-time World Champion Schumacher.

“We clearly see that as a challenge and it is much too early to write us off. Everybody in the team remains positive and is in a fighting mood. So I expect a better weekend for us to come; a weekend we can build on.”

Rosberg echoed his team-mates positivity and said he expects Mercedes to be more competitive at one of his favourite tracks.

“We can surprise people this Sunday. We know that the car is fast from the last test in Barcelona, so now we have to work on proving that potential,” he said.

The 2011 season is Mercedes second full season as an independent manufacturer after taking over Brawn GP in the winter of 2009.