Hamilton sets early Sepang pace

Lewis Hamilton proved he was suffering with no hangover from the disappointment of last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix as he led the way in first practice for this Sunday’s race in Malaysia.

Hamilton grabbed pole at Melbourne’s Albert Park as McLaren have clearly built a car seemingly capable of a world title challenge this year.

However, the 27-year-old has since admitted a range of issues “did not go his way”, resulting in him finishing third in the season-opening event behind team-mate Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel.

That led to Hamilton looking forlorn after the race, since when he has explained away his demeanour by the fact he does not like “going backwards”.

But after the initial 90-minute run at the Sepang International Circuit situated on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Hamilton was comfortably ahead of the pack.

However, as with any opening Friday practice session there is far more to come, especially as the drivers have yet to switch to the softer, faster Pirelli tyres as the medium, more durable compound was the preferred option in this instance.

In temperatures of 31 degrees centigrade and with humidity at 56%, making driving conditions incredibly difficult, Hamilton set a time of one minute 38.021secs.

Reigning double world champion Vettel was half a second adrift in second place in his Red Bull, followed by Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the former 0.792secs off Hamilton, with the latter a mere 0.013secs further adrift.

Lotus again looked strong as Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth and seventh, sandwiching Mark Webber in his Red Bull, the trio all around a second down.

Force India’s Paul di Resta, after scraping into the top 10 in Australia, was eighth quickest, 1.277secs behind, followed by Button.

Button, 32, saw his session come to a premature end as his McLaren developed an oil leak that resulted in him completing just 15 laps, the third lowest total of the session.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10 in his Force India, with Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas edging team-mate Pastor Maldonado as the duo finished 11th and 12th.

The Ferraris again appeared troubled as Felipe Massa was down in 13th and Fernando Alonso 15th, the latter two seconds behind Hamilton.

At the rear it was again the HRT pair of Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa, the duo 7.339secs and 7.507secs down.

Unfortunately for Karthikeyan, as in Australia a week ago, his car ground to a halt in FP1, on this occasion with a hydraulics issue.

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