Lotus improving but Williams struggle (Malaysian GP Friday practice analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams have been the slowest of the established teams at Sepang
Williams have been the slowest of the established teams at Sepang

After the first two practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix Lotus appear to have made a step forward but Williams are lacking pace.

And although Felipe Massa could only manage the 15th fastest time in the second free practice session, Ferrari’s genuine pace looks better than that.

Take a closer look at the times from Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix below.

McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: Top four
Malaysia FP1 lap times: Top four (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: Top four
Malaysia FP2 lap times: Top four

All the teams ran the hard tyre in practice one as the track rubbered in.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Sepang, 2010

McLaren led the way in free practice one with Lewis Hamilton the fastest of its two drivers following a low-fuel stint in the middle of the session.

In the second half of first practice the pair did a longer stint with lap times a good three-and-a-half seconds slower suggesting a heavier fuel load. Once again Hamilton was the quicker of the two, doing a 1’38.522 with his penultimate lap compared to Button’s 1’38.955.

The McLarens were strongest in sector three, where straight line speed is important, suggesting their ‘F-duct’ is helping them here. We should get a better take on this when the speed trap data is published tomorrow – one figure mentioned during the second session suggested they were as much as 6kph faster than their rivals.

Hamilton set the fastest time on soft tyres in the second session. Jenson Button wasn’t able to match it, lapping four-tenths slower, and saying afterwards he wasn’t happy with the car’s balance yet.

Ferrari and Red Bull have tended not to go for lap times in practice one this year and that seems to be the case again here. Felipe Massa’s initial stint in the 1’37s and Fernando Alonso’s in the 1’36s were probably set with a half-tank or so of fuel.

Ferrari continued doing a lot of high-fuel running in the second part of qualifying. In the second session Alonso’s best time on the soft tyres was 1.4 seconds slower than Hamilton’s, which might be read as a sign they’re in trouble, but I doubt it. Their slowest laps, most likely set on the heaviest fuel loads, were no worse than McLarens, so I suspect they’re competitive.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2010

Tellingly, despite only setting the ninth fastest lap time Sebastian Vettel was quickest of all through the middle sector in FP1 and FP2. This section includes the high-speed turns five to eight, which play to the RB6’s aerodynamic strengths.

But as we’ve seen already this year, how quick their cars are is irrelevant if they’re not reliable. Both their drivers suffered problems today and Mark Webber’s second session was cut short by engine failure.

At Mercedes, Michael Schumacher missed much of the early session with a brake problem.

He and Nico Rosberg were both on-track at the same time towards the end of practice one and both set their fastest times at this point – Rosberg edging Schumacher by one tenth of a second with a 1’35.106.They did more short runs in the second session, with Rosberg faster by 0.2s.

They both did seven-lap runs on the soft tyres in the second session and here too Rosberg seemed to have an edge – his times falling consistently with the fuel load while Schumacher’s were close on pace but not as regular.

Renault, Force India, Sauber, Williams and Toro Rosso

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: Midfield
Malaysia FP1 lap times: Midfield (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: Midfield
Malaysia FP2 lap times: Midfield
Robert Kubica, Renault, Sepang, 2010

Robert Kubica underlined Renault’s pace with the fifth fastest time in session one, which he set at the end of a five-lap stint having backed off for two laps. He did another five-lap stint shortly afterwards but didn’t improve on his time.

Team mate Vitaly Petrov, however, only completed a single five-lap stint in that session after a fuel pump problem, and his second session was cut short by a water leak.

Petrov’s best time in the second session, a 1’35.872 good for ninth quickest, was his first lap of a four-lap run on the soft tyres. While some drivers found they were able to do one quick lap, slow down to revive the tyres, and then improve again, Petrov was a tenth slower when he tried this approach.

However the team seem to have retained their position of ‘best of the rest’ behind the top four, albeit it with Force India not far behind.

Paul di Resta was on duty for Force India again, this time standing in for Vitantonio Liuzzi. He was just under a second off Adrian Sutil’s pace.

In the second session Sutil and Liuzzi’s stint times compared favourably with Renault’s, while Sauber and Toro Rosso were around half a second per lap behind.

As in Melbourne the Toro Rosso drivers ran long stints, Alguersuari doing 25 laps uninterrupted at one point – typically in the high 1’39s/low 1’40s. Alguersuari’s running in first practice was hindered by an electrical problem.

Worryingly for Williams their cars were slowest of the established runners in practice one, with the eight Cosworth cars at the bottom of the times sheets. But for Webber’s stricken Red Bull the same result would have been repeated in second practice. The FW32s were half a second off the non-new teams in sector three in first practice. Again, those speed trap figures are going to make interesting reading.

Virgin, Lotus and HRT

Practice one

Malaysia FP1 lap times: New teams
Malaysia FP1 lap times: New teams (click to enlarge)

Practice two

Malaysia FP2 lap times: New teams
Malaysia FP2 lap times: New teams
Fairuz Fauzy, Lotus, Sepang, 2010

There was more reliable running for Lotus who ran Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy in the morning session in place of Heikki Kovalainen. They also tested a new shark fin wing.

In the afternoon session the green-and-yellow cars were within one second of Nico H???lkenberg’s Williams. It may be too soon to talk about them getting on terms with the established teams but the signs of progress are clear.

HRT F1 were pleased to log 110 laps – almost two race distances – today, and in the second session were just over a second slower than the Virgin cars.

Virgin, too, enjoyed a largely trouble-free practice apart from a power steering problem for Timo Glock late in the second session.

Top 50 lap times

Practice two

Rank Driver Lap time Lap
1 Lewis Hamilton 94.175 12
2 Lewis Hamilton 94.276 10
3 Sebastian Vettel 94.441 19
4 Nico Rosberg 94.443 12
5 Jenson Button 94.538 11
6 Michael Schumacher 94.674 10
7 Nico Rosberg 94.691 13
8 Lewis Hamilton 94.765 7
9 Michael Schumacher 94.825 9
10 Sebastian Vettel 94.863 16
11 Lewis Hamilton 94.954 2
12 Lewis Hamilton 95.043 4
13 Nico Rosberg 95.145 9
14 Robert Kubica 95.148 14
15 Michael Schumacher 95.309 6
16 Nico Rosberg 95.351 4
17 Jenson Button 95.401 7
18 Jenson Button 95.541 3
19 Fernando Alonso 95.581 26
20 Sebastien Buemi 95.66 12
21 Michael Schumacher 95.681 3
22 Robert Kubica 95.706 12
23 Robert Kubica 95.825 7
24 Robert Kubica 95.86 9
25 Vitaly Petrov 95.872 9
26 Vitaly Petrov 95.951 11
27 Adrian Sutil 95.957 8
28 Adrian Sutil 95.968 7
29 Sebastien Buemi 96.001 14
30 Robert Kubica 96.012 2
31 Kamui Kobyashi 96.018 14
32 Kamui Kobyashi 96.082 15
33 Vitantonio Liuzzi 96.221 19
34 Adrian Sutil 96.278 3
35 Jaime Alguersuari 96.325 8
36 Pedro de la Rosa 96.325 9
37 Vitantonio Liuzzi 96.36 18
38 Kamui Kobyashi 96.363 5
39 Vitaly Petrov 96.384 4
40 Vitaly Petrov 96.478 2
41 Nico Rosberg 96.575 2
42 Felipe Massa 96.602 29
43 Sebastien Buemi 96.727 9
44 Adrian Sutil 96.75 10
45 Rubens Barrichello 96.813 18
46 Jaime Alguersuari 96.824 10
47 Rubens Barrichello 96.847 19
48 Sebastien Buemi 96.861 6
49 Vitaly Petrov 96.904 6
50 Sebastien Buemi 96.926 2

Practice one

Rank Driver Lap time Lap
1 Lewis Hamilton 94.921 6
2 Nico Rosberg 95.106 18
3 Lewis Hamilton 95.138 4
4 Jenson Button 95.207 10
5 Michael Schumacher 95.225 12
6 Jenson Button 95.245 7
7 Michael Schumacher 95.275 10
8 Michael Schumacher 95.331 13
9 Michael Schumacher 95.395 5
10 Robert Kubica 95.402 7
11 Nico Rosberg 95.463 6
12 Jenson Button 95.464 5
13 Mark Webber 95.479 8
14 Mark Webber 95.495 9
15 Nico Rosberg 95.525 10
16 Robert Kubica 95.538 13
17 Jenson Button 95.546 8
18 Robert Kubica 95.643 11
19 Nico Rosberg 95.674 15
20 Mark Webber 95.765 7
21 Michael Schumacher 95.795 6
22 Nico Rosberg 95.808 13
23 Nico Rosberg 95.821 9
24 Nico Rosberg 95.937 4
25 Michael Schumacher 95.951 3
26 Paul di Resta 95.955 8
27 Fernando Alonso 95.959 8
28 Paul di Resta 96.011 19
29 Sebastian Vettel 96.043 15
30 Robert Kubica 96.078 4
31 Sebastien Buemi 96.1 19
32 Fernando Alonso 96.145 15
33 Fernando Alonso 96.212 5
34 Sebastian Vettel 96.219 6
35 Lewis Hamilton 96.32 3
36 Fernando Alonso 96.325 17
37 Fernando Alonso 96.35 12
38 Paul di Resta 96.35 15
39 Sebastian Vettel 96.361 18
40 Paul di Resta 96.389 17
41 Paul di Resta 96.393 12
42 Sebastian Vettel 96.405 7
43 Felipe Massa 96.451 21
44 Fernando Alonso 96.452 4
45 Kamui Kobyashi 96.503 14
46 Sebastien Buemi 96.577 8
47 Fernando Alonso 96.582 7
48 Jaime Alguersuari 96.645 15
49 Sebastian Vettel 96.658 5
50 Vitaly Petrov 96.712 8

Over to you

Got a different take on the practice times? Spotted something interesting on one of the cars? Have your say in the comments.

2010 Malaysian Grand Prix