Hamilton bounces back in Malaysia

Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a troubled first practice ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix to lead the way at the end of the day.

The reigning champion, who began the year in stunning fashion just under a fortnight ago in Australia by claiming pole, fastest lap and victory, hit problems after just four installation laps in FP1.

Hamilton was ordered to pull his Mercedes off the Sepang International Circuit after complaining of “a click in the rear” of the car.

Although Hamilton stated his gears worked and he could have returned his car to the pits, he was told by his race engineer that “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 furiously worked on a fault with the power unit inlet system.

Mercifully for Hamilton, with only four engines available to a driver over the course of the 19 grands prix, a complete engine change was not required.

Hamilton did not return to the circuit until 38 minutes into FP2, at the end of a red-flag session as rookie Roberto Merhi had beached his Manor in the gravel.

Fifty-two minutes later Hamilton emerged the only man to dip below one minute and 40 seconds for the lap, posting a time of 1:39.790secs.

As in FP1, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen emerged second quickest, with the Finn 0.373secs adrift of Hamilton, with Nico Rosberg third quickest in his Mercedes, 0.428secs off the pace of his team-mate.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat produced a strong showing to wind up fourth, with Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa fifth and sixth on the timesheet at 0.660secs and 0.770secs behind respectively.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was down in seventh for Ferrari, and the only other driver to finish within a second of Hamilton.

Beyond that, the rest were some way adrift, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen 1.430secs down, with Sauber’s Marcus Ericcson and Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull completing the top 10.

As for ailing McLaren, Fernando Alonso completed 45 laps overall for the day, finishing 2.7secs behind Hamilton in 16th position, with team-mate Jenson Button 17th and 0.131secs behind the Spaniard.

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.

After missing the race in Australia, Manor had something to cheer about as both Will Stevens and Merhi completed 34 laps between them.

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 test session of the season, rookies Stevens and Merhi finally hit the track.

The 23-year-old Briton was 5.9secs behind Hamilton and 1.5secs up on Merhi, whose run into the gravel cost him considerable track time.

Published: Friday 27th March 2015 by The News Editor

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