The opening F1 Grand Prix of the year in Australia last week saw McLaren take an impressive first and third with Jenson Button doing his best Alain Prost imitation to dominate proceedings, with team-mate Hamilton managing third after a poor start.
But Hamilton’s grumpy face on the podium in Melbourne said it all – not a start to the new season McLaren’s ‘senior’ driver wanted. But Hamilton appears to have put the disappointment of Australia behind him with a strong performance in Friday practice for the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hamilton dominated with a fastest time of 1m 38.021s in first practice, with a time only down by 0.151s in second practice as grip fell away. Team mate – and Aussie winner Jenson Button – was third fastest, just a whisker behind a strong Mercedes driven by Michael Shcumacher, with Shumacher’s team-mate Nico Rosberg taking fourth spot, showing how strong the Mercedes engine seems to be this year (and perhaps the McLaren and Mercedes aerodynamic choices).
Red Bull didn’t fare so well with Vettel a poor 10th and Webber in 7th, although the pace the Red Bulls showed in Melbourne in the race belied their poor performance in practice and it wouldn’t be a shock if the same happened at Sepang.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Team Boss, said:
I think Mercedes AMG look very strong and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Red Bull Racing just yet – as usual, we expect them to be competitive. However, we weren’t too displeased with today’s running – relative performance doesn’t look too different from what we saw in Melbourne.
Friday practice is a good guide to what’s going on, but qualifying at Sepang tomorrow will be far more telling.