Hamil­ton help­less as Fer­rari pair set pace

Bri­ton laments prob­lem­atic start in Malaysia

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT -

Lewis Hamil­ton be­moaned a very dif­fi­cult start to his Malaysian Grand Prix week­end as ti­tle ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel set the pace at Sepang yes­ter­day.

Vet­tel clocked a lap record to go quick­est in sec­ond prac­tice with his Fer­rari team-mate Kimi Raikko­nen sec­ond.

Mean­while, Mercedes en­dured what their head of mo­tor sport Toto Wolff la­belled “one of the worst Fri­day’s I can re­mem­ber” as Hamil­ton and team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas strug­gled.

Both span in the af­ter­noon ses­sion as they were re­stricted in their run­ning time due to a num­ber of out­side fac­tors.

First prac­tice was de­layed due to a heavy down­pour and there was no run­ning for the first 30 min­utes. The sec­ond ses­sion was cur­tailed by more than 20 min­utes as a red flag ended run­ning af­ter the Haas of Ro­main Gros­jean had a big ac­ci­dent as it suf­fered a ma­jor punc­ture from hit­ting an un­cov­ered drain.

Vet­tel is now 28 points be­hind Hamil­ton in the fight for the ti­tle af­ter the Bri­ton came here on the back of a hat-trick of wins, but the Ger­man shone yes­ter­day.

He was al­most 1.5sec quicker than Hamil­ton, who was down in sixth, leav­ing the cham­pi­onship leader hope­ful of im­prove­ments on Satur­day.

“It’s been a very dif­fi­cult day,” said Hamil­ton.

“I’ve been strug­gling with the car to­day, so we have to review and try to un­der­stand where we have gone wrong with the bal­ance.

“We’re hop­ing that we’re able to find our bear­ings overnight and re­group for to­mor­row.”

Wolff, mean­while, in­sisted the un­com­pet­i­tive­ness of Mercedes was real and not that they were sav­ing their true pace for to­day.

“The lap time is re­al­ity,” he said. “The stop­watch al­ways tells the truth. The lap time showed we are not quick enough.

“The car seems to be un­bal­anced and that trig­gers con­se­quences. It is one of the worst Fri­day’s I can re­mem­ber.”

Gros­jean crashed out when his Haas hit a drain on turn 13 which had seem­ingly had its cover ripped off mo­ments ear­lier as Hamil­ton passed over.

The French­man suf­fered a mas­sive punc­ture as his rear-right tyre bumped over the un­cov­ered drain and saw him hit the wall at high speed.

He was able to walk away from the car and con­firm he had not been se­ri­ously hurt.

Race di­rec­tor Char­lie Whit­ing re­vealed he and his team faced a long day to get the cir­cuit into a safe state ahead of free prac­tice three on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“Un­for­tu­nately, one drain grate has come up. It is an in­spec­tion hatch, a drain that runs all along the curb,” he ex­plained.

“One has come up, they are nor­mally bolted and welded but it seems it has just come away.

“For the rest of the day we will con­cen­trate on get­ting the four kerbs welded back down again . . . they have prob­a­bly be­come a bit fa­tigued. We have to get it fixed for to­mor­row, of course.”

RED FLASH: Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel in ac­tion in Sepang yes­ter­day

Lewis Hamil­ton

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