Engine trouble for Hamilton

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Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Lewis Hamilton’s bid for back-to-back wins at the start of the new Formula One season suffered a major setback in first practice for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

The reigning champion began the year in stunning fashion just under a fortnight ago in Australia by claiming pole, fastest lap and victory.

But after just four installation laps early in the initial 90-minute session at the Sepang International Circuit, Hamilton was ordered to pull his Mercedes off track.

Via the team radio, Hamilton said: “There’s a click in the rear. The gears still worked, but I stopped the car like you told me. I would have made it back.”

In response, Hamilton’s engineer said: “We have no telemetry so we didn’t want to risk the engine. It’s a race engine.”

Hamilton’s car was hoisted away from the scene and returned to the Mercedes garage where his mechanics were forced to remove the engine in a bid to discover the fault.

If a change of system is required it will serve as a significant blow to Hamilton as a driver is allocated just four engines to last over the course of a season, with further changes beyond that leading to grid penalties.

Come the conclusion there was a Mercedes driver at the top and bottom of the timesheet, with Hamilton propping up the standings without a time to his name.

Leading the field, and by some considerable distance, was team-mate Nico Rosberg with a lap of one minute 40.124 seconds.

It is clear Mercedes again have a stunning advantage, with another one-two on the cards for Sunday should Hamilton overcome his early woes.

Rosberg’s closest challenger was Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari, the Finn posting a late flier and going quickest in the first and third sectors to finish 0.373secs adrift of the German.

Team-mate Sebastian Vettel was next up, but half-a-second further back, followed by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, but again there was a significant gap, with the Frenchman 1.419secs off the pace.

From Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr in fifth place to Felipe Massa in his Williams in 11th, just half a second separated seven drivers.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso, Valtteri Bottas for Williams, Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull and the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson were all in the tightly-packed gaggle.

As for ailing McLaren, Fernando Alonso completed 20 laps and was 2.7secs behind Rosberg in 14th position, with team-mate Jenson Button three places and half a second further back.

For Alonso, it was his first outing in the car since his pre-season testing accident in which he sustained concussion, forcing him to miss the opening grand prix in Melbourne.

Similarly, Manor had something to cheer about as both Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi completed eight laps apiece.

Although the South Yorkshire-based team travelled to Melbourne after being rescued from administration weeks earlier, they failed to turn a wheel in anger due to numerous issues.

But in what was effectively the team’s first session of the season, rookies Stevens and Merhi finally hit the track, with the 23-year-old Briton 6.5secs behind Rosberg and a second up on the Spaniard.

Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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