Force India’s reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg stole the limelight from his fellow team-mates, setting the fourth fastest time in the first free practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit here today.

Taking over the wheels from Paul Di Resta in the opening practice session, Hulkenberg put in a solid performance and completed 23 laps to set the fourth fastest lap time of 1:40.377.

Hulkenberg’s highly-rated team-mate and Force India’s ace driver Adrian Sutil, however, failed to find his grip on his VJM04 in the hot and humid Sepang track and was 11th and 17th fastest in the two sessions with 21 and 28 laps under his belt.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber topped the timings in both the practice sessions ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, while his team-mate and 2010 champion Sebestian Vettel gave more emphasis to the Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS) than timings.

Force India’s other regular driver, Di Resta then took over from Hulkenberg in the second practice session in the evening but failed to make an impact in his 31c laps, finishing 16th in the timesheet.

After failing to qualify for the season opener Australian Grand Prix, the Hispania Racing Team gathered some momentum here with Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan finishing as the 21st fastest.

Karthikeyan’s team-mate and former Force India driver Vitantonio Liuzzi of Italy finished one place behind him in the 22nd position in the timesheet.

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