Hamilton goes fastest in practice in Malaysia

“Undriveable”. An HRT? Marussia? Nope the Red Bull RB8, apparently and according to intercepted radio transmissions from Sebastian Vettel’s cockpit. Half a second off the pace in Free Practice One this morning, more than twice that in FP2… Make no mistake, this year’s Red Bull ain’t last years Red Bull. And remember Sunday Afternooners: you heard it here first; Adrian Newey’s won everything, but he’s never won three driver’s titles on the trot…

OK. So while you were sleeping. Lewis Hamilton was getting on with what Lewis Hamilton does; driving the derriere of his McLaren MP4 27. Fastest in both sessions, from Seb’ in the first, from Michael Schumacher in the second. With his head down after Oz, Lewis will be feeling better about that. Then again the smarts in Melbourne all said it’s Lewis’ sheer addiction to going as fast as he bloody well can that’s the issue. Jenson Button, who had problems in both sessions this morning, spends more time getting the car right for the race. There are no points for pole. Still, just as we were saying yesterday, that McLaren is one very fast racing car.

We were also saying we reckoned the Lotus was the second quickest car out there. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all. Fiffth and seventh in FP1, ninth and 15th in FP2, the Lotus E20 doesn’t look to be the car it was in Australia. Mind you, after Romain Grosjean phoned in in FP1 to say the car felt ‘funny’, they’ll be thankful they’re still competing. Last time he made that call, in pre-season testing, it proved to be pretty terminal as the front suspension was about to fall off.

We were right about the on-going brouhaha about Mercedes’s extraordinary rear wing. We are going to have a go at explaining it over the weekend, but we’re going to need to speak to James May about that first so bear with us. Gary Anderson on the BBC website now seems certain that the system does effectively mean the car has DRS on the front as well as the rear wings, uniquely, and that has considerable benefits. And, as befits a man who’s designed real racing cars (Sunday Afternoon Club has never got further than some ambitious Lego projects) he’s also put forward some powerful arguments that the same system explains why the really rather cool-looking F1 WO3 eats its tyres.

(By the way, here’s that film of Schumacher fending off the paddock paps in Australia trying to grab a look at the tech.)

Hats off to those loveable Spaniards at HRT and their greying diver pairing of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan (combined age 716). Unable to compete in Australia for the simple fact that hadn’t actually finished building the car, they lapped inside the 107 per cent of fastest time rule that should mean they can race on Sunday. That’s McLaren levels of in-season development (albeit from a somewhat lower starting point). Red Bull will be hoping it can match that. Looks like it needs to.

Ok, we’ll be back tomorrow and we promise to keep an eye on that midfield, which frankly is so tight, so close, we can’t really make any sense of it – unlike Sunday Afternooner ‘FastBBBB’, to whom we owe many thanks for telling us exactly what did happen on that last lap in Melbourne…

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