Kimi Raikkonen maintained the momentum from his win in the first race of the Formula One season as he set the fastest time in the second session of Friday’s practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Lotus driver took the checkered flag in Australia last week and looks strong in Sepang too, having also recorded the second quickest time in the morning practice session.
Sebastian Vettel took the second quickest time in the afternoon, followed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso and Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
The conditions are predictably hot and humid and Raikkonen was pleased at how his Lotus reacted, but was not getting carried away ahead of qualifying on Saturday.
“It is the first time that we really run in hot weather, so we have to set-up the car carefully to make the tires work to our advantage in a long, demanding race,” he said, according to the official Formula One website. “At the moment I would say that it is trial and error for all of us, and the more you are able to try the more you have the chance to eliminate any errors. It looked good for us this afternoon, but it is Friday so it doesn’t mean much.”
As in Melbourne, rain is also expected this weekend and Raikkonen explained that the weather adds an extra element of unpredictability.
“We could see rain at any point of the race, so how should I know what is happening on Sunday afternoon?” he added. “The only thing that I can say right here right now is that the car is good, that the team is working fantastically and that I want to keep the lead in the drivers’ standings.”
Last year’s winner Fernando Alonso says he is aiming for a spot on the front row in qualifying with the belief that his Ferrari is in good shape.
“Today, the car worked well in all conditions and that is very good news for us,” he said. “This circuit is more representative than Australia for evaluating the car’s performance and so it was important to understand here today if the positive feelings from the winter were not just an illusion.”
Vettel, who has won twice in Malaysia, believes tire conservation in the uncompromising conditions will be key.
“This afternoon we couldn’t do so much due to the weather, but this morning it looked okay, although the tires don’t last very long!” he said. “We need to try a couple of things now overnight to improve and take a step forwards.”
There was little encouragement for the struggling McLaren team as Jen son Button came 11th and 12th and Sergio Perez 13th and 11th in first and second practice, respectively.
Where to watch: Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix will get underway at 4 a.m. ET on Saturday morning. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.