Ferrari rebound to top at Sepang F1 practice

April 3rd, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sepang, April 3 (DPA) Ferrari bounced back from last weekend’s Australia disaster when Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa dominated Friday’s practice for the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix motorsports.
Rivals McLaren-Mercedes, meanwhile, made headlines off the track when Lewis Hamilton issued a public apology and sports director Dave Ryan was sacked in connection with the disqualification of the world champion Hamilton from Sunday’s season-opener in Melbourne.

The ex-champ Raikkonen of Finland clocked 1 minute 35.707 seconds for the 5.543-kilometres lap as rain threatened but did not fall in the day’s second session. But the Finn also experienced problems with the KERS energy saving system on the day.

Last year’s championship runner-up Massa was close behind, the Brazilian timed at 1:35.832. Germany’s Sebastian Vettel came third in a Red Bull in 1:35.954 minutes.

Raikkonen and Massa failed to finish on Sunday in Melbourne as Ferrari got off to the worst possible start. But history may repeat itself as Raikkonen won last year in Malaysia after Ferrari had a poor start in Australia.

British Melbourne winner Jenson Button drove his Brawn GP car to seventh place in 1:36.254. Nico Rosberg of Germany, who had dominated all three practice rounds in Melbourne and the morning session in Sepang, finished fourth in the afternoon in 1:36.015 minutes in a Williams.

BMW-Sauber disappointed with Poland’s Robert Kubica 17th and Nick Heidfeld of Germany joint last in 20th place. But the team said later it was experimenting with the KERS system and that Heidfeld had not used it in the afternoon.

Heidfeld almost collided with Vettel in the closing stages of the second session. Vettel, who drove into Kubica late in the Australian race as both fought for second place, reportedly swiftly apologised for the latest incident.

Hamilton came 11th in 1:36.515 minutes, and was fined $1,600 (1,200 euros) for speeding in the pit lane, as McLaren-Mercedes continues to struggle on the track.

But the fallout from Sunday’s incidents made even more headlines when the 54-year-old Ryan was suspended after 35 years at the team and Hailton apologised for the Melbourne incidents, saying he was told by Ryan to withhold information in the FIA hearings.

“I could not tell you how sorry I am for the embarrassment,” Hamilton told a news conference.

“I was misled. I’m not a liar, I’m not a dishonest person, I’m a team player. Every time I’ve been informed to do something, I’ve done it. This time I realize that it was a huge mistake.”

Accompanied by Ryan, Hamilton was deemed to have given race stewards “deliberately misleading” evidence in connection with an overtaking move concerning him and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli during a safety car phase in Melbourne. Hamilton was disqualified on Thursday and Trulli reinstated as third-place finisher.

“His (Ryan’s) role in the events of last Sunday, particularly his dealings with the FIA stewards, has caused serious repercussions for the team, for which we apologise. Therefore, I suspended him this morning and he has accepted this,” McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh was quoted as saying.

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