Hamilton sets the pace at his 'special place'

McLaren driver enjoys the feel of high-speed circuit as Schumacher finds his feet

On the day when Michael Schumacher began to look a little more like his old self, Lewis Hamilton dominated practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix to keep McLaren ahead of arch-rivals Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari.

But whether that will remain the picture tomorrow, with the Ferraris only seventh and 15th courtesy of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, remains to be seen.

Hamilton was 0.185sec ahead of Nico Rosberg in the morning, 0.266sec ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the afternoon. "Sepang is a very special place," Hamilton said. "It's not a stop-start circuit; it's a flowing, high-speed track which is all about getting the car to flow from one corner to the next. You need lots of rear-end grip, a strong balance and a car that can ride the kerbs well while also conserving the tyres.

"I think we had a good first day today," he added. "I've got a good feeling in the car – it's probably the best feeling I've had around this circuit. Every time I get to a track this year, it always feels light years better than the last time, which is very positive. We're still trying to get a better feeling for the tyres, but we've made some positive first steps.

"This evening, I want to sit down with my engineers and make a couple of changes. We don't yet know where the others are, so we need to keep focusing on our performance, but we're optimistic that we've made a small step forward."

Schumacher felt the same, after lapping much closer to team-mate Rosberg. "I'm quite happy overall with our work today and the practice sessions went very much as we expected," he said. "We did have an issue with the brakes this morning so I didn't start running right away but once we were out on track, I felt we had good pace. However we have to be realistic about our performance here and we might still be lacking a little compared to the front runners. The good thing is that you can play with the lines a bit to find time as the track here is quite wide. But in the end, as usual, we will have to wait and see how qualifying and the weather evolve."

This is the race, however, that Red Bull must win after dominating the first two events this season before suffering with poor reliability. Vettel said he was not 100 per cent happy with his car. "The McLarens and the Mercedes look very quick, Ferrari I think have a decent long run pace so we need to see," the German said, while refusing to speculate on whether he could take pole position for the third time in a row. "We need to see where we are after today and then we set our targets, but for sure hopefully Q3 and then try to finish as high up as we can to start at the front."

Following the spark-plug problem that hampered Vettel in Bahrain and the broken wheel-fixing that forced him out in Australia, there was more bad news for Red Bull yesterday when Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber stopped out on the circuit in the afternoon with an engine failure. "You never want your Fridays disturbed and today it has cost us a lot of track time," Webber said, "but the car felt pretty good. It's never ideal to lose an engine but we did. The car feels good in the quick stuff, but I wouldn't say we have a particular weakness in terms of high-speed and low-speed corners, we are good in both."

Malaysian Grand Prix: Practice times

Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang): First Practice: 1 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1min 34.921secs; 2 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:35.106; 3 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:35.207; 4 M Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes 1:35.225; 5 R Kubica (Pol) Renault 1:35.402; 6 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:35.479; 7 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:35.955; 8 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:35.959; 9 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:36.043; 10 S Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso 1:36.100; 11 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:36.451; 12 K Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1:36.503; 13 J Alguersuari (Sp) Toro Rosso 1:36.645; 14 V Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:36.712; 15 P di Resta (GB) Force India 1:36.891; 16 P de la Rosa (Sp) Sauber 1:36.899; 17 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Williams 1:37.802; 18 R Barrichello (Br) Williams 1:38.278; 19 J Trulli (It) Lotus 1:39.460; 20 T Glock (Ger) Virgin 1:39.755; 21 L di Grassi (Br) Virgin 1:40.159; 22 F Fauzy (Malay) Lotus 1:40.721; 23 B Senna (Br) Hispania 1:41.832; 24 K Chandhok (India) Hispania 1:41.966. Second Practice: 1 Hamilton 1min 34.175sec; 2 Vettel 1:34.441; 3 Rosberg 1:34.443; 4 Button 1:34.538; 5 Schumacher 1:34.674; 6 Kubica 1:35.148; 7 Alonso 1:35.581; 8 Buemi 1:35.660; 9 Petrov 1:35.872; 10 Sutil 1:35.957; 11 Kobayashi 1:36.018; 12 Liuzzi 1:36.221; 13 De la Rosa 1:36.325; 14 Alguersuari 1:36.325; 15 Massa 1:36.602; 16 Barrichello 1:36.813; 17 Hulkenberg 1:37.614; 18 Trulli 1:38.454; 19 Kovalainen 1:38.530; 20 Webber 1:38.786; 21 Glock 1:39.061; 22 Di Grassi 1:39.158; 23 Chandhok 1:41.084; 24 Senna 1:41.481.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?