McLaren made use of the opening practice session ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix to debut and evaluate its new nose-box on track.
During the first practice session of the day Kevin Magnussen suffered a brief setback when a sensor on his power unit detected overheating and switched the engine into ‘limp-home’ mode. Magnussen did manage to make it back to the pits and following a short time in the garage the mechanics fixed the issue and sent the rookie back out on track to finish the session just behind team-mate Jenson Button in fifth place.
“We’re finding it tough out there today – especially in the heat” admitted Button. “We’re not as strong as we’d like to be in high-speed corners – and, when you have downforce issues, they’re further amplified by the hot weather. So our long runs were tricky – in terms of both tyre degradation and outright pace.”
The afternoon session saw further changes on the two cars but both drivers struggled with their race simulation and failed to find an advantage of the new changes with Button finishing in eighth place and Magnussen in twelfth.
“We’re now going through the data, but the upgrades we brought here seem to be giving us something – so that’s encouraging – but there’s a lot of work still to be done” said the British driver.
Button refused to put any emphasis on the times from the first day at Sepang, “I’m sure people are getting excited about individual lap-times, but they don’t count for too much around here because you can usually overtake. It’s the long runs that you need to analyse, and that’s where we’re finding it a bit more difficult.”
Magnussen was happy with his performance today and gaining valuable experience in the tropical conditions. “I’ve never driven a car in these sorts of temperatures – so I learned a lot today.” he said.
“For me, overheating the rears is my biggest problem – the tyres are behaving very differently from how they did in Australia – so that’ll be my focus.
Racing Director Eric Boullier was positive about the performance from the team on day one of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. “This morning’s session was an important one for us, because it gave us the first opportunity to carry out on-track correlation of our new nose-box.
While Boullier was happy with the morning session, the afternoon brought its own issues “This afternoon was a little trickier. The changes we’d introduced between the two sessions didn’t make the improvements we’d been hoping for, and we’re aware that we’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us tonight to get our cars into a stronger position for tomorrow.”