Malaysian GP practice: McLaren v Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Sepang, 2008, 470150

Who’s ahead in the battle at the top? Lewis Hamilton was fastest of all in practice but Ferrari seem to be quicker over long stints…

McLaren – Fast but frail

Lewis Hamilton ended the second session with the fastest time of all – but under somewhat unusual circumstances. It was very hot for most of the session and the Ferraris were substantially quicker in that time by at least a second per lap.

Late in the session track temperatures fell from the mid-fifties to high-thirties and Hamilton shot to the top of the times sheets using the softer compound (medium) tyres. He was set to do another quicker lap shortly after but elected to return to the pits instead. Heikki Kovalainen was almost 1.5s slower.

McLaren’s absolute pace, therefore, is something of a mystery. Are they struggling to make their car work in high temperatures? Or were they just working on a heavy-fuelled stint? Or do they just have much better single lap pace than they do over a stint?

McLaren also reported a minor gearbox problem with Hamilton’s car, a cause for some unease following their similar problems at Melbourne which were remedied before the race.

Ferrari – Frail but fast

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Sepang, 2008, FP2, 2, 470313

After the nightmare of Melbourne the sight of Kimi Raikkonen’s car grinding to a halt early in the first free practice will have set Tifosi spirits plunging. But according to the team it was not a car problem but vaguely asserted it was down to “a communication problem within the team.”

Ferrari got excellent pace out of the harder tyre in the hotter conditions but lost out to Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren when the temperature dropped. Perhaps the team are still struggling to get heat into their front tyres during more normal track temperatures.

Interestingly, Felipe Massa had a slight edge over Raikkonen at the track where the Brazilian took pole position last year. He said he would have been quicker but was delayed by Hamilton.

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15 comments on Malaysian GP practice: McLaren v Ferrari

  1. I posted this on an earlier threat but it is more applicable here:

    It was interesting that Lewis spent most of the session a second of the Ferrari pace until right at the end. I know some have speculated falling track temperatures could be a reason but a) that would affect everyone equally, and b) would not account for a 1.4s different, or whatever it was. c) McLaren didn’t perform badly on a hot track last week. I suspect that McLaren was either sandbagging, testing race set up (most likely). Interestingly Hamilton is still favourite to land pole and the race if you believe the bookies. On this evidence he should get pole but winning the race might be harder. Massa loves this track clearly

  2. I hope any of the Ferraris win because I’m a very big fan of Ferraris.

  3. michael said on 21st March 2008, 16:22

    Hi there, does anyone know whether there exists a ban on movable aeroparts in F1 2008. Just asking coz when watching Massa’s nose-cam it was more than clearly visible that his front wing flattens and relaxes when on the straight or entering a corner. I thought that was forbidden??? That was during 2nd. free practice  40-41 minutes.
    Thanks and happy easter weekend

  4. Dan M said on 21st March 2008, 16:26

    Massa and Hamilton cannot win a race unless they get pole. My money is whoever starts on top (unfortunatly).

  5. Scootin159 said on 21st March 2008, 16:36

    My bet is a Ferrari 1-2, provided both drivers finish a race.  I think last week showed just how fast Raikkonen actually was relative to the field (went from 15th to 3rd prior to things going wrong).

    Massa really disappointed last week, but has shown he can be quick in practice… and really loves this track.

    It’s hard to tell where the McLaren’s really are in race pace, simply because they haven’t shown their true pace yet.  Last week they had no reason to push, yet still led the midfield easily.

  6. McLaren led the midfield? They waltzed to victory! Raikonnen only got to third by having a one stopper and having the rub of the green with safety cars.

    If you analyze the lap times (when Kimi was flying around lap 21) it is hard to conclude he was faster than the McLarens on a similar fuel load. In fact, many were surprsied about how effective the McLarens were on the tyres … the mp4-23 is supposed to be hard on the rubber.

    There is no question Ferrari are quick. There is a question about whether they are quicker than McLaren. We’ll have a much better idea tomorrow … bring it on.

    Although a ferrari 1-2 wouldn’t be a surprise it is by no means a slam dunk

  7. MR H&S said on 21st March 2008, 16:51

    So why would the McLaren’s pace be so different for a stint vs a quali lap?  What changes?

  8. It’s all going to be academic if it rains on Sunday – which it probably will.

    I would question the tifosi’s relief at learning Raikkonen’s problem was to do with communication rather than a mechanical problem, however.  It seems to me that Ferrari have two problems, one as regards reliability, the other regarding team efficiency.  A foul-up in the pits can be just as disastrous for a team’s chances in the race as a mechanical failure.

    Oh, I do love the Ferrari of old – happy days are here again.  :D

  9. NDINYO said on 21st March 2008, 17:22

    There is a ban of movable aero parts that is for sure.

  10. Brad Pitney said on 21st March 2008, 18:27

    few teams back in 2006 Ferrari had Flexi-Wings, so did BMW.

    I can see quite a bit of movement on that Ferrari at the sides of the cockpit too

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/01/25/banned-flexi-wings/

  11. 7/ Mostly down to tyres. McLaren has a faster car off the bat but is harder on the tyres. That means that over longer stints Ferrari can either push harder or McLaren’s performance will degrade

  12. MacademiaNut said on 21st March 2008, 18:33

    "So why would the McLaren’s pace be so different for a stint vs a quali lap?  What changes?"Here’s the reason.  When you do a stint, you are flexible with the fuel load and you are testing different things.  You might be interested in testing the 2 vs 1 pit-stop strategy etc.    When it comes to qualifying, you know pretty much the fuel strategy of all the top-10.  With almost everyone on a two-stopper, they are all about the same fuel load.. that’s where the true pace comes into play.

  13. Firestarter said on 21st March 2008, 23:33

    About MacLaren of this year, i think they have sorted the tire problem out with all the data from last year. The Lewis car looks good on tires and he knows how to manage them, but we need to find out what happens when he is on the limit. Bring it on Sepang!!

  14. Toncho said on 21st March 2008, 23:50

    MCL was probably sandbagging, then LH just tried to get a quick time and he got it…  so I will put my money on Hamilton for pole and victory here, but I hope Kimi can fight back, if Ferrari has another bad weekend the season may be boringly one-sided. I  am also curious to see how BMW performs, they are normally not very fast on free practice but quick in Q.  Last but not least I looking forward to see a normal racing conditions GP to see where Williams/Homda/and FA’s R-5 really are.

  15. nick c said on 22nd March 2008, 12:17

    My bets are on ferrari 1-2 tomorow, Even though i am a mclaren fan. The only thing that could change the race is either wet wheather which i am hoping. Or reliablilty problems with the ferraris. Otherwise raikkonen and massa will win the race comfatably as they did in spa last year.

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