Brought to you by TheJudge13 reporter Adam Macdonald
The expected showers did not rear themselves early in the session as a bright start saw almost the entire field getting out for installation laps. The virtually empty grandstands showed the potential Formula One still has to grow in Malaysia as the sun basked down onto the spectacular complex. When the action started it was the turn of Nico Rosberg to have the problem in FP1 for Mercedes, with a problem under braking when entering the pits.
Max Chilton provided some early entertainment as the team tried out different rear wing configurations. Various powerslides and twitches showed the lack of rear downforce these setups gave. For a short period the two Williams drivers topped the time sheet before Alonso took the top spot from the Bottas, posting a time of 1:42:930. The new regulation for 2014 giving all drivers an extra set of tyres for the first 30 minutes worked well, with 16 cars setting times within that period.
The bad news continued for Lotus with Romain Grosjean stopping just before turn 10, 25 minutes into the session. Stuck in gear initially, it took 10 stewards to remove the stricken vehicle as a disillusioned Frenchman caught a ride back to the garage. Adrian Sutil took an unorthodox entry into the pits going for a more cross-country route, preceding a brief period of calm as the cars retreated to their garages.
Once again, short shifting was evident for many drivers throughout with the wheel spin being evident when the drivers did practice starts at the pit lane exit. As was discussed earlier in the week, the noise of the cars was once again a polemic issue as the helicopter over the track was louder than Daniil Kvyat on the SKYF1 coverage. As per usual with SKY, the comprehensive coverage demonstrated the difference in downforce between the Marussia and Williams cars showing how far behind the midfield the two backmarker teams still are.
Various drivers continued to demonstrate how slippy the track was as they struggled on the dirty surface. With 40 minutes to go in the session the 60th driver to score a point on his F1 debut, Kevin Magnussen, proved his podium in Melbourne was no fluke setting the fastest final sector and then the next lap going fastest overall for the session.
No sooner had he done this with Twitter alight with people praising him did he stop out on track with complete power loss, with his car shutting down and entering a safety mode. The comical set of events that followed in the recovery of the McLaren caused an initial delay recovering him to the pit lane. Raikkonen soon after went fastest just before Fernando Alonso did his best ballerina impression spinning at turn 8, only for Hamilton to then take top spot. Nico Rosberg was clearly running a different programme as he was a long way off his teammate even though it was evident he was pushing hard in his Mercedes W05.
With 20 minutes to go there was just 4 cars out on circuit, as the Lotus team once again tested their James Bond style smoke screen. Another wasted practice session for the Black and Gold team demonstrated the dismal situation they find themselves in and the mountain they have to climb in terms of reliability.
In the final 2 minutes of the session, Lewis Hamilton took a trip onto the gravel after turn 11 as he understeered off. Lewis then blamed “driving on marbles out there” for the off with the low levels of grips being demonstrated. The Williams of Massa wobbled at the end of the session as well showing why this will go down in the diary as the practice session of moving and shaking.
At the end of the session we have been handed a glimmer of hope that the Mercedes cars can be challenged with Hamilton losing time in the final sector, even if this was largely down to him locking his right front tyre. The biggest question to be answered is whether it will be a 3 or a 4 stop race if the race is a dry one.
The Final Standings