Malaysia Grand Prix | Rosberg tops FP1 as Hamilton’s forced to retire

Nico Rosberg opens the Malaysia Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time during the opening practice session in Kuala Lumpur. 

Rosberg kicked off the weekend 0.373 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Whilst Nico’s Silver Arrow cohort Lewis Hamilton was forced to retire early on, leaving the German as the cream of the crop. Alonso and Marussia also made their first official outings of the season during the opening practice session.

Lewis hit Malaysia on the back of winning in Australia, but that form does not mean Hamilton will reign supreme once again. Instead, Rosberg got the better of him across the 90-minute session to keep the current World Champion off the top spot.

In bigger news than Mercedes topping yet another session, FP1 for the Malaysia Grand Prix also proved to be Fernando Alonso’s return to the McLaren cockpit following his testing accident along with Bottas’ return following the Finn injuring his back during qualifying last time out.

Marussia also hit the track in their sponsor-less red and white car. A big step for the team who just made it back to Formula One for the Australian GP, without being able to compete in Melbourne.

As the green light flicked on at 10am locally, and 2am in the UK, the session was underway with Marcus Ericsson venturing onto the Sepang International Circuit. Ericsson and others carried out their installation laps in the early stages, meaning we were not gifted the first lap time for 17 minutes when Ericsson produced a 1:44:483.

Ericsson’s time was instantly beaten by Bottas who lapped the circuit just over a second faster. The lead then switched back and forth with Verstappen. Soon after however, the pairs lap times would only be good enough for ninth and eleventh as Rosberg found himself sat open at the top with Lewis Hamilton pulling to the side of the track.

Earlier in the session Mercedes told Lewis they were not receiving telemetry from the car but sent the Brit out regardless. Unfortunately, this came back to bite the team as they could not diagnose how serious the issue was without the driver pulling over when Lewis reported a “click at the back”. Thankfully the car was able to be returned to their garage shortly after the incident and the team could get to work. It took a while, but later in the session it was confirmed by the team that it was an engine issue that caused Lewis to retire.

As things stood at the midway point of the session, Rosberg was top by over a second to the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard also held a four tenths lead over Kimi Raikkonen, whilst Alonso sat in 16th on a 1:45:101 with six laps completed.

Grosjean soon was the next man slotting in behind the solitary Silver Arrow, with the Frenchman posting a 1:41:543. However the time that saw Romain get within a second of the German was soon a thing of the past as Nico regained his large lead with a 1:40:124. Now Rosberg held a 1.4 second lead over the Lotus, with just over 30 minutes remaining of the session.

More problems seemed to have popped up at Red Bull after a weekend to forget in Australia. This time Kvyat missed the apex of turn 15 moments after reporting to the team that his brakes were pushing him on. A few minutes later, he reiterated that point by saying “something strange is going on with the brakes”. The team informed Kvyat that he had a loss of power at turn 5 due to not being able to recover enough energy over the previous lap.

Meanwhile Ferrari were slotting into what may be becoming their territory, for the meanwhile at least, as best of the rest in second and third. Both Raikkonen and Vettel were able to move ahead of Grosjean on the timing board, but neither could get within touch of Rosberg’s earlier benchmark time.

That also continued to be the case when the chequered flag fell, with Rosberg top of the time sheet on a 1:40:124. Raikkonen however managed to improve his personal best to secure second place by three tenths of a second.

Elsewhere, Alonso’s best time found the Spaniard in 14th place in the number 14 car while team mate Button came home in 17th. Manor ended the session at the bottom of the time sheet in 18th and 19th, with only Lewis Hamilton behind the team after not setting any lap times.

  1. Rosberg (1:40:124) 20 laps completed
  2. Raikkonen
  3. Vettel
  4. Grosjean
  5. Sainz
  6. Ricciardo
  7. Verstappen
  8. Bottas
  9. Kvyat
  10. Ericsson
  11. Massa
  12. Maldonado
  13. Marciello (replaced Nasr for the session)
  14. Alonso
  15. Hulkenberg
  16. Perez
  17. Button
  18. Stevens
  19. Merhi (1:47:683)
  20. Hamilton (no time set)