Mark Webber tops FP1 at Malaysia

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The first Friday practice of the Malaysian Grand Prix was paced by Infiniti Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who turned in the quickest lap of the session at 1 minute, 36.935 seconds.

He and Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel were split at the top of the time sheets by last week’s winner at Australia, Kimi Raikkonen, who posted the second-quickest lap at 1 minute, 37.003 seconds in his Lotus despite being the last driver to run a timed lap due to issues with his car’s KERS system. Vettel was P3 in the practice with a time of 1 minute, 37.104 seconds.

Defending Malaysian GP champion Fernando Alonso was fourth-fastest for Ferrari (1:37.319) and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg rounded out the top five (1:37.588).

Adrian Sutil managed to be sixth-quickest for Force India despite damaging his front wing after running over some curbs on the circuit. Positions 7-10 were filled by Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Paul di Resta (Force India), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus).

As for McLaren, which struggled mightily with the MP4-28 in Melbourne, Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were only able to ascend to 11th and 13th-fastest in the session, respectively.

Formula One – Malaysian Grand Prix

Friday Practice One times

1. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:36.935

2. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 1:37.003

3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:37.104

4. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:37.319

5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:37.588

6. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:37.769

7. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:37.771

8. Paul Di Resta, Force India, 1:37.773

9. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:37.840

10. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:37.915

11. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:38.173

12. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:38.673

13. Sergio Perez, McLaren, 1:38.830

14. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 1:39.054

15. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:39.204

16. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:39.208

17. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:39.284

18. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:39.567

19. Giedo Van Der Garde, Caterham, 1:40.728

20. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, 1:40.996

21. Charles Pic, Caterham, 1:41.163

22. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:41.513

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.