As the clock ticked down at the close of the first 90-minute practice session at a hot Sepang circuit, Ferrari mechanics were fitting face masks and rubber gloves to set to work on Kimi Raikkonen's car.

As the clock ticked down at the close of the first 90-minute practice session at a hot Sepang circuit, Ferrari mechanics were fitting face masks and rubber gloves to set to work on Kimi Raikkonen's car.

The Finn arrived into the pits with his seat-belt straps undone, so as to raise his nose and eyes above plumes of smoke billowing from the cockpit of the F60.

Expert observers immediately concluded that either the cockpit fire extinguisher had been triggered, or a more sinister problem had arisen -- possibly a failed KERS battery.

Observers in the pitlane reported a "nasty smell". Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa were sixth and fifth fastest respectively.

As in Australia, the top of the timesheets were dominated by the Williams cars, with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima outpacing the two Brawns.

It emerged that Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been told to take a cautious approach to this weekend's practice sessions, given that they each have only one spare front wing for the entire event.

World champion Lewis Hamilton - branded a "liar" by the British mainstream sports press overnight following the events of Thursday - was seventh, and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen dead last as both the McLarens spent more time than desired in the pits.

Also not doing much on Friday was Fernando Alonso, having left Sepang early on Thursday with a reported ear infection.

His Renault teammate Nelson Piquet was slightly quicker than the Spaniard but just fourteenth, after sliding into the gravel with a problem on the front-corner of his car.

The BMW-Sauber drivers were complaining bitterly on their radios about the handling of the F1.09, particularly Nick Heidfeld, who was just eighteenth quickest and querying not only his chassis setup but the performance of the engine.

 

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