Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, winner of the opening round at the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, sends a clear message of his intention to continue his winning streak at the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix with a commanding performance to top today’s free practice session in Sepang.
Second in the opening free practice session behind Mark Webber, Raikkonen, who has won the Malaysian Grand Prix twice in 2003 and 2008 in a McLaren and a Ferrari respectively, bettered his best morning time of 1 minute 37.003 seconds around the 5.543-km track to 1 minute 36.569 seconds.
Defending world champion and two-time Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel was second fastest for the day; clocking 1 minute 36.558 seconds in the second free practice session which was run under clear skies and high temperatures.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa upstaged his more celebrated team-mate Fernando Alonso as the Brazilian took third spot in the timesheet for the second practice session with a time 1 minute 36.661 seconds against the Spaniard’s best lap time of 1 minute 36.985 seconds.
First in the opening morning practice with a time of 1 minute 36.935 seconds, Webber only managed the fifth fastest time in the second practice with a time of 1 minute 37.026 seconds in his Red Bull RB9 machine.
The F1 drivers would have a third practice session tomorrow, which would run for one hour from 1pm before going through the all-important qualifying session at 4pm to decide their grid positions for Sunday’s race.
Unlike the opening race in Melbourne where results have always been described as unpredictable being the first race, the battle in Sepang is expected to paint a clearer picture in the performance of the drivers and teams.
‘Iceman’ Raikkonen, his post-race comments in Melbourne, had said that he believed that a repeat win in Sepang was possible despite a cautious tone.
“It feels good but it’s only after one race. It doesn’t really change our aim and how we approach this year. Definitely, we are happy with the win but there is an awful lot to still to do to win the championship. We seemed to have a good car in Albert Park, so hopefully it works well in the next races also. Malaysia is a difference place, it’s going to be much hotter there so it’s very difficult to say how the cars will feel, who will be fastest after having just one race. I think we have to do two or three races before we really know who is where and what’s going to happen.”
“It’s probably going to rain again in Malaysia at some point but it will be a different circuit, different conditions. Our car worked well in Australia and usually – at least last year – in hot conditions it’s been good for us so hopefully it will turn out to be a good weekend,” added Raikkonen, who finished fifth last year.
words: SIC pix: Faiz Zakariah & Syafril Ismail