THE Malaysian Grand Prix weekend kicked off in predictable fashion with the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton topping the morning and afternoon practice sessions respectively.
Close in the pitlane but distant in laptimes, there was a simultaneous mix of optimism and frustration between Williams, Red Bull and Lotus and the end of day one in Kuala Lumpur.
Lotus arrived in Malaysia coming off the back of a disappointing opening race in Melbourne – where neither car saw past the third lap.
Despite a far more positive start to the 2015 season, the team still suffers with car issues, curbing constructive running. Romain Grosjean was left frustrated after finishing FP2 18th, despite setting an impressive 4th quickest time in the morning.
“It was quite a limiting day for me in terms of laps (21 in total). There was a problem on the second session and we are investigating it”, said Grosjean.
“It’s a different circuit to Australia, the conditions and the tyres are different, so we will have a lot of work to do in Free Practice 3.” – Grosjean
“It’s been a frustrating day but I will bounce back tomorrow”, Grosjean said.
Team-mate Pastor Maldonado struggled to get to grips with the car’s handling throughout the sessions, and changing tyres only exacerbated the issue. The Venezuelan was still content with his long runs, giving him 12th and 11th positions respectively and confidence ahead of qualifying tomorrow.
“The car behaved differently depending on the tyres we used. I preferred the afternoon session to that of the morning. The long runs went well.” – Maldonado
“But we still have some work to do in order to get everything in place before qualifying”, Maldonado said.
It’s been a tumultuous week for Red Bull, after it was alleged by Renault Sport boss Cyril Abiteboul that designer Adrien Newey “lied” about Renault’s part in the Milton Keynes outfit’s poor form in Melbourne.
When the cars hit the track though, this drama took a backseat view with both Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo expressing their relief in solving many of the issues encountered in Australia.
“We had a few issues at the end of the session but nothing serious, and it went a lot better than the first”, said Kvyat who finished 4th in FP2.
Finishing 6th in the morning and 10th in FP2, Ricciardo said: “There are a lot of positive things and the problems we encountered in Melbourne – engine flexibility – have been reduced.”
“The car was a lot easier to drive. We had to change a few things this morning and I had a few issues in the afternoon. This limited our running.”
“We’re looking at where to improve. If we get rain tomorrow before qualifying, I’ll certainly be happier” – Ricciardo.
Making his comeback from a back injury which forced him to pull out of the opening race in Melbourne was Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. The Finn took little time to get back up to speed as he set the 8th and 5th fastest times. Bottas believes he has fully recovered and is ambitious for the weekend.
“This morning the track was very dirty and dusty. The second session was very hot but the fast laps were good.”
“The changes made on my driving position were positive and I could drive without any pain. I’m confident for the rest of the weekend.”
Free Practice 3 begins tomorrow morning at 06:00 GMT with qualifying starting at 09:00 GMT. UK coverage available live on BBC Two and Sky Sports F1.