INTENT: McLaren driver impresses at Sepang
THE McLarens continued with their pace-setting form as Lewis Hamilton bounced back from his disappointment in the Australian Grand Prix last Sunday to top both practice sessions of the Petronas Formula One Malaysia Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit yesterday.
The 2008 world champion, disappointed with third in Australia after taking the first pole position of the season, had the upper hand over teammate and Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button, and will start today's qualifying session as the hot favourite after clocking the fastest time of 1 min 38.021 sec in the morning session.
Button started off his weekend with the ninth fastest time in the morning session and improved to third in the second session.
Hamilton's morning session time was a clear half a second faster than reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull who was second fastest, while seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes-AMG-Petronas got closer in the second session, clocking 1:38.533s, which was still 0.361s adrift of Hamilton's time.
"It's been a good day for me. We've made a few changes to the balance of the car since the last race, which I'm much happier with. But we'll still be making changes to improve our long-run pace. It can always be better," said Hamilton.
"I'm working as hard as I can to have as good a qualifying set-up as my race set-up and I think we've understood a bit more how the car works on heavy fuel. I went wide a couple of times on my long run in the second session and looking after the tyres will be a tough call in the race. So it's all about finding the right balance."
Another pole position will be Hamilton's primary target which he will set out to achieve today, before attacking for the top step of the podium tomorrow.
"In Sepang, overtaking will be a little more possible than in Melbourne. Nevertheless, starting from the front will still be the best position for the race, and that's what I'll be going for tomorrow (today)," he said.
Vettel, the Malaysian Grand Prix winner the past two years, seemed to struggle under warmer track conditions in the afternoon and admitted all was not well with his Red Bull.
"It's sliding quite a bit and I'd like the car to be more stable. But we made a good step up today, so we will see how we go in qualifying," said Vettel, 24.