By John O'Brien
SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton had nothing but praise for his Mercedes mechanics after they worked tirelessly on an engine issue between practice sessions at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday and produced a car that posted the fastest time of the day.
The defending world champion stopped at the apex of the Turn Nine hairpin in first free practice and could only sit and watch from the garage as team mate Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets ahead of the two Ferraris.
Back in the cockpit after his mechanics had completed their repair job and fitted with the faster medium tires, a relieved Hamilton was then able to sweep around the 5.543 km Sepang International Circuit in one minute, 39.790 seconds late in the afternoon.
"It was an amazing job by my guys to rebuild the car, and get the engine and gearbox back on," Hamilton told reporters.
"I am grateful for that," he added before admitting further improvements were needed as the race weekend progressed.
"Particularly here, where it is so hot and so difficult with the tires out there, it was important to go out and get some laps," the Briton said.
"I know my lap wasn't spectacular. I think I have some improvements to make with the balance and settings, as they were all from the last race. I am sure we can improve it."
After leading a one-two finish for a dominant Mercedes in Melbourne, Hamilton admitted that the Ferrari resurgence appeared to be gathering steam as both Kimi Raikkonen and new recruit Sebastian Vettel looked impressive in Malaysia.
"The Ferraris look great, they really do," he said. "It's surprising to see how good their times are. We will see if it continues this weekend."
Rosberg was equally as gushing about the Italian outfit after he was unable to overhaul Raikkonen in the second session and had to settle for the third fastest time.
"It seems that again Ferrari is pretty close, so we need to keep an eye on them," the German said.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)