Lewis Hamilton got his Malaysia GP weekend off to the best possible start on Friday
Mercedes star paces P1 ahead of Raikkonen's Ferrari
By Mike Wise at Sepang. Last Updated: 28/03/14 7:44am
Lewis Hamilton: Flying start
Lewis Hamilton got his Malaysia GP weekend off to the best possible start on Friday morning by setting the fastest time in opening practice at Sepang.
The Mercedes driver, who retired after just two laps of the season-opener in Australia, lapped the 5.543km track in a time of 1:40.691s to go 0.152s quicker than Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg, the winner in Melbourne two weeks ago, was third fastest ahead of McLaren pair Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.
Both were trialling new front wings and nosecones on their MP4-22s, the latter upgrade noticeably thinner than its predecessor. Whether they provide the 0.5s improvement promised by McLaren boss Ron Dennis remains to be seen, although Button's gap to Hamilton (0.4s) was more encouraging.
Magnussen had earlier gone fastest himself but the Dane, who claimed a podium finish on his debut in Melbourne, then stopped on track shortly before the pitlane entry. However, after McLaren mechanics pushed him back to his garage, the rookie was able to rejoin in the closing moments.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was sixth fastest ahead of World Champion Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), Felipe Massa (Williams) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams) completing the top ten.
Fernando Alonso was 11th fastest in his Ferrari, the Spaniard joining Hamilton in indulging in a quick spin during the session. The latter's came right at the end of the 90 minutes, with Hamilton blaming it on the marbles after he ran wide.
The 2008 World Champion successfully completed the session using the V6 turbo which let him down in Albert Park, although it will be replaced with a fresh power unit heading into the weekend.
With temperatures nudging 30 degrees Celsius by the time the session started at 10am local time, drivers increasingly complained of tyre wear - the combination of the track's abrasive surface and the increased torque of the new hybrid power units likely to prove a factor this weekend.
Given the tropical heat, so will reliability. Lotus are still evidently struggling on that count, with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado both stopping on track. The pair, who completed just six laps, failed to set times.
Second practice starts at 6am GMT.