• Malaysian GP - FP1

Rosberg fastest as Hamilton has engine trouble

Laurence Edmondson in Sepang
March 27, 2015
© Sutton Images

Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had his session cut short with an engine problem.

Hamilton's Mercedes was returned to the garage soon after it stopped at Turn 9 for the mechanics to work on and before the end of the session the team had traced the problem to a hardware issues with the power unit. An engine problem may require Hamilton to use more of his power unit components for the year but, while it would not be a good thing at this stage of the season, it would not result in a grid penalty this weekend.

Mercedes still had an advantage over the rest of the field, although it was cut down from 0.8s to 0.3s by Kimi Raikkonen on his final run of the session. Both Ferraris were able to get within a second of Rosberg, although the track was in a better condition by the end of the 90 minutes which allowed both Raikkonen and Vettel to improve while Rosberg was setting slower times on heavier fuel.

One clear positive Ferrari can glean from the times is that Raikkonen was quickest in the fast first and final sectors, which is further proof the team has cut the power deficit to Mercedes over the winter. Despite the positive start, however, Ferrari's closest rivals this weekend are still expected to be Williams, which were eighth and 11th but have a history of running heavy in Friday practice.

After a double retirement in Australia, Lotus will be buoyed by Romain Grosjean's time, which was fourth fastest and 1.419s off Rosberg. Grosjean was fast through the speedtrap, suggesting the Lotus will be quick on Sepang's two long straights, even if it may be lacking some downforce to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari in the corners.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz was the highest-placed Renault-powered driver in fifth, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull and team-mate Max Verstappen in seventh. The second Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat was ninth ahead of Marcus Ericsson, who rounded out the top ten in the Sauber.

Fernando Alonso was 14th fastest on his return to the cockpit, and although the McLaren-Honda was still over 2.7s slower than Rosberg, it appears to be closer to the pace than it was in Australia. Jenson Button was 17th fastest in the second MP4-30, with a time that was only better than the two Manors. Will Stevens was the fastest of the two Manor drivers, but still over 6.5s slower than the benchmark time set by Rosberg. Nevertheless, just making it out on track was progress for the team compared to Australia.

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