Tire trouble hinders Mercedes advantage

Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:58am EDT
 
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By Patrick Johnston

SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Heavy Tire degradation caused by the searing Sepang temperatures has limited Mercedes' advantage over their Formula One rivals at the Malaysian Grand Prix, according to championship leader Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg was still quickest in practice but only 0.2 seconds separated the top six at the Sepang circuit on Friday where track temperatures peaked at over 50 Celsius causing havoc to the tires and leading to a number of uncharacteristic spins.

Hamilton, who was quickest in the opening session, spun in both 90 minute runs and compared the circuit to "driving on marbles", while the normally unflappable Fernando Alonso also had trouble controlling his Ferrari.

Rosberg said the team had been taken by surprise at how much the tires had suffered on the demanding circuit, where heavy breaking areas and long straights played their part in his best time of one minute, 39.909 seconds.

"It was a decent day, tough conditions out there really, very, very hot and tough for the car, tough for the tires even, we never expected so much Tire degradation," the Australian Grand Prix winner told reporters.

"Its just massive degradation out there which is a big challenge."

Rosberg had sauntered to a 25 second win in the opening race in Melbourne two weeks ago and although he was again quickest in Malaysia practice, the difference was a mere 0.035 seconds over Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

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Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany drives during the second practice session of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Crisp