Mark Webber has dominated Friday practice in Malaysia, setting times significantly faster than his closest rivals the morning session before pipping Jenson Button in the afternoon.

Webber paced the first 90-minute run, setting a series of fast laps to eventually sit more than a second and a half quicker than his nearest competitor. Second place Lewis Hamilton was in fact a whopping 1.665 seconds shy of the pace setting Red Bull, a worrying prospect for the Anglo-Austrian team’s rivals ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session.

Photo: Red Bull/Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Aussie then made it a Friday double by once again leading a McLaren – this time Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button – in FP2. His advantage here was far slimmer, with Button 0.005 down on Webber, but still represented a strong showing for the reigning world champions. Webber’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel meanwhile had a quiet day, not setting a representative lap in FP1 before taking fourth in the second session. However Vettel will undoubtedly be Webber’s main – and quite possibly only – rival for pole position tomorrow.

Three-time Malaysian Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher enjoyed a promising day pace-wise, finishing the first session third fastest before ending FP2 fifth. His old employers at Ferrari had less to cheer about, with neither car showing particularly stellar speed in either session.

Renault meanwhile suffered a nightmare opening session, with both Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov sidelined after running only a handful of laps. Having just set the fastest time in FP1 Heidfeld appeared to lockup in to turn one. However it soon became clear that the German’s problem was more serious than a simple snatched brake as he continued around the corner with a static wheel. Heidfeld’s session was over with just six laps complete.

 

Photo: Lotus Renault GP/Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic

And things were to get worse for the Enstone-based team, with Vitaly Petrov ‘s front-left wheel appearing to fail under braking for turn nine, the Russian having done just four tours of the circuit.  It would soon transpire that the problems were related, both cars having suffered problems with their suspension uprights, throwing their participation in FP2 in to doubt. However after extensive work from the team both cars made it out for the second session, Petrov emerging from the pits on the 40 minute mark with Heidfeld rolling out after an hour’s running.

Having impressed in FP1 and the early running of the second session Pastor Maldonado suffered an embarrassing moment midway through FP2. The Venezuelan put a wheel on the grass as he entered the pitlane, snapping the car from his control and in to the outer wall; the looks on the faces of the Williams crew said it all.

In the battle at the back Virgin enjoyed some cheer following a miserable Australian Grand Prix, with Timo Glock outpacing both Lotus cars. However the team’s happiness will be tempered by problems for Jerome d’Ambrosio, who suffered a suspension failure in FP1 that would force him to sit out the entirety of the second session.

 

Photo: Force India F1 Team

Elsewhere three non-race drivers contested FP1: Nico Hulkenberg was an impressive fourth for Force India, Daniel Ricciardo took 12th fastest for Toro Rosso, narrowly outpacing team-mate Jaime Alguersuari, whilst GP2 veteran Davide Valsecchi made his maiden appearance at a grand prix weekend with the 21st fastest time for Lotus.

The Red Bull show – sorry – qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, takes place tomorrow at the Speang circuit.

Combined Session Times

POSDRIVERTEAMBEST 
1Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault1m36.876s
2Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1m36.881s
3Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1m37.010s
4Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault1m37.090s
5Michael SchumacherMercedes1m38.088s
6Felipe MassaFerrari1m38.089s
7Nico RosbergMercedes1m38.565s
8Nick HeidfeldRenault1m38.570s
9Fernando AlonsoFerrari1m38.583s
10Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso-Ferrari 1m38.846s
11Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Cosworth1m38.968s
12Rubens BarrichelloWilliams-Cosworth1m39.187s
13Vitaly PetrovRenault1m39.267s
14Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1m39.398s
15Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1m39.603s
16Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes 1m39.625s
17Adrian SutilForce India-Mercedes 1m39.809s
18Sebastien BuemiToro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.115s
19Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes 1m40.377s
20Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.748s
21Timo GlockVirgin-Cosworth 1m40.866s
22Jarno TrulliLotus-Renault1m41.620s
23Jerome d'AmbrosioVirgin-Cosworth 1m42.540s
24Narain KarthikeyanHispania-Cosworth 1m43.197s
25Tonio LiuzziHispania-Cosworth 1m43.991s
26Davide ValsecchiLotus-Renault1m44.054s
27Heikki KovalainenLotus-Renault1m44.886s