Saturday March 23, 2013
Raikkonen shows intent with fastest time in practice session
By LIM TEIK HUAT
KIMI Raikkonen squeezed in the fastest time of the day to sent a clear statement of Lotus’ intention to continue their strong early start to the season at the Petronas Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang yesterday.
Raikkonen, who romped to an easy win in Melbourne on a clever two-stop strategy, beat world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and resurgent Ferrari driver Felipe Massa to the top spot in a close second practice session before the rain came.
A heavy shower approaching the hour mark was enough for Raikkonen to ensure that the 1:36.569 he did on medium tyres earlier would eventually ended up as the fastest lap of the day.
Raikkonen’s Lotus, Vettel’s Red Bull and Massa’s Ferrari had all taken turns in front during the dry section and they ended returning the fastest three times.
The rain did not mean the end of the action. With similar conditions expected to happen in qualifying and during the race, the teams also decided to send their drivers back out to sample both the wet track and the drying track in case it rains for the weekend.
The warm ambient temperature swiftly dried the track sufficiently for slicks but it was still never quite good enough for drivers to beat their early times.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso edged out Red Bull driver Mark Webber for fourth with Raikkonen’s team-mate Romain Grosjean next up.
The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were seventh and ninth split by Paul di Resta of Force India.
Force India also showed good pace with Adrian Sutil holding on to 10th despite a mechanical problem keeping his car in the garage during the rain delay.
But the man on fire was certainly the Iceman, who looks determined to continue with his winning streak for Lotus on a track where he notched his maiden win in Formula One 10 years ago.
Raikkonen won it then for McLaren and repeated the feat in 2008 for Ferrari.
Raikkonen, who rewarded himself with an ice cream, was pleased with the early proceedings.
“It was a pretty good day. We tried changing a few things on the car and made progress with where we wanted to be at the end of the sessions,” said the 2007 world champion.
“We had some running in the wet, which you often get around here and the car feels fine.
“We ran pretty heavy today, so I don’t know how we’ll be when everyone is lighter during qualifying, but I’m happy with where we are and expect we’ll be reasonable tomorrow.”
Frenchman Grosjean later revealed that his team-mate’s car was running an updated aero package, unlike his.
“Kimi was running an updated aero package which looks to be an improvement, so we know there’s more pace to come in that area, but there are still things we can do with the current specification once I get everything working for me,” said Grosjean.
“We’re still working on the set-up of the car as it’s not quite right for me and it’s difficult to understand why exactly.
“The new front wing does feel better than the one before so that helps. We’re still working on the setup of the car as it’s not quite right for me and it’s difficult to understand why exactly. The new front wing does feel better than the one before so that helps.
“It was pretty hot out there – quite a contrast to Melbourne. But I felt comfortable and I’m looking forward to making some improvements tomorrow before we head into qualifying,” added Grosjean, who notched three podiums for Lotus last year.
The drivers will have a third practice session at 1pm today before going through the all-important qualifying session at 4pm to decide their grid positions for tomorrow’s race.