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NST Online: Sports


F1: Webber bounces back in style

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 05:03 PM PDT


Red Bull’s Mark Webber, followed by Lotus’ Jarno Trulli, in action during the second free paractice of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang yesterday.

Red Bull's Mark Webber, followed by Lotus' Jarno Trulli, in action during the second free paractice of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang yesterday.

MARK Webber yesterday topped one of the more dramatic Friday practice sessions to give world champions Red Bull Racing the start they wanted ahead of the Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit.

The Australian was in a class of his own after falling short in his home race two weeks ago and was on top of his game from the word go, pipping 2009 world champion Jenson Button to top spot in the afternoon session after totally blitzing the field with a time that was 1.6 seconds ahead of the second fastest McLaren of Lewis Hamilton in the morning session.

The new Pirelli tyres also promised an incident packed weekend to follow with the marriage to the sport yet to reach honeymoon levels of intimacy, as a rather more than usual number of off track excursions and debates that followed suggested.


World champion Sebastian Vettel, Webber's teammate and winner of the Australian Grand Prix, had a low-key start to the weekend, posting a mere 17th fastest in the morning before improving to fourth fastest in the afternoon heat.

He said afterwards: "Tyre wear is different here compared to Melbourne."

The practice sessions had given an indication of the unexpected to occur both in today's qualifying sessions and tomorrow's race, as displayed by Sauber's Venezuelan debutante Pastor Maldonado who first provided what would have been the biggest sensation to start the weekend when he topped the timesheets momentarily.


Then as he slowed down to enter the pitlane, Maldonado's Sauber inexplicably swerved off-track and ended up crashing into the wall at the pitlane entry.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembrey has been made a busy man, needing solutions not just to the tyre supply concerns, but to an expectant press that have began piling the pressure on Formula One's new tyre supplier.

"In competition, we'd ideally like to have a compound particularly just for this circuit. It is early days yet. Of course there's a big difference between the soft and hard compounds and we've had a few guys trying different things today.


"Some have tried backing off a little when there's little grip, to see whether it comes back and so on. The soft degrades faster than the hard compound, obviously," said Hembrey, who also predicted a three-stop strategy the average minimum to be employed by most teams in the race tomorrow.

Pirelli's new compound -- brought especially for the Malaysian Grand Prix -- was also tested by Webber, as he posted the fastest time of the day at one minute 36.876 seconds.

Webber proved that he is a scrapper who performs better when he draws on his self-confessed "mongrel" spirit than by trying to stay cool, calm and collected.

By finishing top yesterday, the Australian wiped out his frustrations at the season-opener in Melbourne.

Webber finished fifth, equalling his two other best finishes at Albert Park but upset by his performance and that of his car, crossed the finish line and immediately parked his vehicle at the end of the pit lane.

Webber, as expected, refused to talk about his Melbourne tantrum when he arrived in Kuala Lumpur and continued in the same vein yesterday.

After topping the times, he said: "We're all pretty close, give or take a couple of tenths (of a second): who got traffic, who didn't, how their KERS worked. So far, so good, I'm towards the front somewhere."

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F1: Hamilton claims Red Bull took it easy

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 05:02 PM PDT


McLaren-Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton makes a pit stop during his second practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang yesterday.

McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton makes a pit stop during his second practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang yesterday.

LEWIS Hamilton has rubbished claims McLaren were closing the gap on Red Bull and said the champions had at least half-a-second in reserve after two tight practice sessions at Sepang yesterday.

The 2008 champion said he did not believe he and teammate Jenson Button, the 2009 winner were gaining on Red Bull despite performing strongly in yesterday's free practice ahead of tomorrow's Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.

"I think that's a lot of rubbish really. I am sure they have another half-a-second at least to pull out in qualifying," Hamilton said.


Hamilton was third fastest for McLaren behind pace-setting Australian Mark Webber and Button. Defending drivers' champion German Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest.

"I think it's been interesting. Whether it has been good? I don't know," Hamilton said.

"We seem to be reasonably close, but I'm sure the Red Bulls will pull something out in qualifying. Nonetheless, we found some good things in the set-up of the car."


Button preferred to dwell on McLaren's performance rather than wonder about Webber and Vettel's Red Bull team, who also claimed last year's constructors' championship.

"I don't know where we are in relation to Red Bull. We don't know how much fuel they are running, as always. It's a normal Friday comment, I know, but it's the way it always is," he said.

"We just do our own thing and for me the balance improved a lot today (yesterday), and that's the important thing. The good thing is we found that we made positive steps." -- AFP

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