Rosberg was still quickest in practice but only 0.2 seconds
separated the top six at the Sepang circuit on Friday where track
temperatures peaked at over 50 Celsius causing havoc to the tires
and leading to a number of uncharacteristic spins.
Hamilton, who was quickest in the opening session, spun in both 90
minute runs and compared the circuit to "driving on marbles", while
the normally unflappable Fernando Alonso also had trouble
controlling his Ferrari.
Rosberg said the team had been taken by surprise at how much the
tires had suffered on the demanding circuit, where heavy breaking
areas and long straights played their part in his best time of one
minute, 39.909 seconds.
"It was a decent day, tough conditions out there really, very, very
hot and tough for the car, tough for the tires even, we never
expected so much Tire degradation," the Australian Grand Prix winner
"Its just massive degradation out there, which is a big challenge."
Rosberg had sauntered to a 25-second win in the opening race in
Melbourne two weeks ago and although he was again quickest in
Malaysia practice, the difference was a mere 0.035 seconds over
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Asked if the amount of wear on the tires could lead to a different
race in Sepang on Sunday, the German said the field had been helped
by the degradation issues but he still expected a close fight with
his team mate for a key pole.
"For sure there will be lots of different strategies and with the
Tire anything can happen," he said.
"It will always be close, just need to try and stay ahead.
"Being on pole as important as it was, just getting that clean start
away from the front is always a big advantage at the beginning of
By contrast, Melbourne pole-sitter Hamilton said the Tire troubles
had not come as a surprise to him.
In a guarded discussion with reporters, the 2008 world champion said
he was more focused on getting his car around all 56 laps of
Sunday's race having been forced to quit after only three at Albert
[to top of second column]
"Its the same every time I come here, its to be expected. Its
took hot for the tires, they are not working very well in these
conditions," he told reporters.
"Even though we have got the hard Tire, the tires do not feel great
but that's the same for everyone."
Hamilton was fourth quickest overall on Friday with world champion
Sebastian Vettel ahead of him after completing 30 laps, despite
concerns about a faulty fuel sensor and requiring a new electronic
power supply for the weekend.
Alonso was fifth and his former team mate Felipe Massa was sixth for
"I never do (look at Friday's times), it's good that everyone is
close, what matters is what happens tomorrow," Hamilton said,
grateful that his repaired engine from Melbourne made it through
"It saves us perhaps the grid penalty further along the way, so it's
good, I'm glad that I had that less mileage on the engine so I
hopefully I can push it a bit more."
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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