Hamilton weathers technical storm in Malaysia
Engine problems kept him out of first practice session, but British driver roared back to record fastest lap
The Malaysian Grand Prix has always been a happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton who has never finished outside the top eight drivers. On Friday, the defending champion set the fastest time in second practice, overcoming a session that was blighted by technical difficulties.
The Mercedes driver missed the first session with engine problems and was also absent from the start of the second, but class will out and Hamilton managed to overcome the setbacks to lap the 5.543km track in a time of 1:39.790, 0.373s faster than Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was third fastest and Daniil Kvyat managed to finally put a smile on the faces of the Red Bull team as he posted the fourth fastest time of the day, 1:40.346.
McLaren suffered a miserable session, however, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button way down in 16th and 17th. Alonso is taking part in his first Grand Prix of the season after missing the Australian race because of concussion suffered in a testing crash last month.
According to Sky Sports, Hamilton was kept off the track in the morning by a problem "affecting the inlet system on his W06's power unit". When it was eventually rectified the defending world champion took to the track but he was soon reporting gearbox difficulties on what was a trying day for the Mercedes mechanics.
"It was an amazing job by the guys to get the engine and gearbox back on and get me back out," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "It affects you quite a bit. Fortunately I got a few laps of a longer run at the end, but in terms of set-up I've not made any changes so I've driven what I have and it's quite a bit off of where we need it."
Mercedes wasn't the only team to endure an uncomfortable afternoon as track temperatures approached 60 degrees Celsius. Ferrari's Sebastien Vettel and Roberto Merhi of Manor Marussia both spun into the gravel, while Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean were affected by loose rear bodywork and engine trouble respectively.
Prior to the practice, Hamilton became the first driver to fall foul of the FIA's controversial helmet ban that was introduced in February. The rule forbids drivers from changing helmet designs during the season so as to make it easier for fans to identity them. On Friday Mercedes tweeted a photo of a new green and blue helmet, but less than an hour later Hamilton  tweeted a photo of the same helmet with the accompanying message:
"I had a special helmet made to celebrate Petronas & Malaysia. Due to the FIA's new rule, I can't wear it."