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Hamilton leads McLaren Malaysia lock-out

NEWS STORY
24/03/2012

While Lewis Hamilton dominated both of yesterday's sessions, the damp start to this morning's pretty much threw a spanner in the works.

Although it was only the final part of the lap that was significantly wet, the session appeared to throw most drivers off course, in some cases literally.

Consequently, while yesterday it appeared that McLaren, and in particular Hamilton, appeared to have this one in the bag, this morning's session, and the increased threat of rain, has somewhat altered the picture.

That said, Force India and Ferrari are disappointing, with the Maranello outfit admitting that it faces an "uphill struggle" this afternoon, Massa still struggling despite a new chassis and new front wing.

On the other hand, how long is it since we saw both Williams in the upper half of the timesheets?

Nico Rosberg was quickest this morning, confirming the upturn in Mercedes fortunes however, there remains doubt as to tyre wear on the German cars.

Also looking good this morning was Lotus, though Kimi Raikkonen faces a five-place penalty after changing the gearbox on his car.

Having looked so good yesterday, Hamilton was altogether different this morning. When he did finally emerge he immediately went off, shades of yesterday's first run on a heavy load, and the fact that he only completed 8 laps could hamper him this afternoon.

It was good news for HRT, the Spanish team appearing to have found some pace since Melbourne and confident both drivers will qualify today.

Unlike Melbourne, indeed, most of the rounds on this year's calendar, grid position isn't that vital here. Nonetheless, better to be at the front in relatively clear air than in the middle of the pack where the mayhem usually erupts.

Ahead of the start of Q1, the air temperature is 32 degrees C, while the track temperature is 46 degrees. Though it's 16:00 here, humidity is 51 percent. The good news is that the sun is shining with no rain. Yet the Red Bull weather scan suggests that there are large rain clouds in the air though there will be rain for the first part of Q1.

Tyre options are hard and medium, with around half-a-second between the two an both showing equal degradation, as requested by F1's powers that be.

The lights go green and around thirty seconds later Pic heads down the pitlane followed by Glock and di Resta. Alonso, Massa and Raikkonen are also eager to get to work.

As Pirelli reveals that it expects some teams to try to save tyres for tomorrow, di Resta posts 38.927 but it's a wild, scrappy lap. Moments later, with all but Vettel and the HRTs on track, Pic goes second with a 42.600.

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