Webber fastest in first practice session

 

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).

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