Malaysian GP | Hamilton rapid in FP3 to go clear of Rosberg

Final free practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix topped by Lewis Hamilton.

With race pace suggesting Mercedes have a race on their hands in Malaysia, Hamilton topped the qualifying simulation runs in FP3. A margin of four-tenths of a second split the Mercedes from Verstappen in the battle to be fastest, while Rosberg ended the hour in third – six-tenths off his team-mate.

Across Friday running at the Malaysian Grand Prix, both Mercedes took a turn at setting the pace. With Nico opening the weekend with the fastest time in FP1, before opening the second practice session by going top once more.

Hamilton, however, lapped fastest of any all day come the end of play. When Lewis bettered his team-mate for the top spot in FP2. Unlike in the opening session where Hamilton’s best time narrowly lost out despite being on the harder tyres.

Talking tyres, Friday running showed for some teams the hard, orange-walled, Pirelli’s were performing better than the white-walled mediums on the newly resurfaced Sepang International Circuit.

The resurfacing came along with reprofiling of certain corners. Most notably the final corner where the apex has been risen by a metre. Causing drivers all sorts of issues as the same line may not work each lap. And allowing for different lines to be taken, such as a wide late turn in or to ‘V’ the corner and run through the middle on entry and exit.

For Vettel in FP3, however, before he could move up the leaderboard to join the early pace setters of Rosberg, Perez, Hamilton and Ricciardo the German was going for a spin. Losing the rear as he went into the final corner too deep, spinning and removing the pit entry bollard from its track-side position.

Shortly after Vettel got going again, Hamilton hit the top spot. Demoting Rosberg by seven-tenths of a second, with the Mercedes duo both running on the medium compound.

As for Ricciardo, the Red Bull was out on the soft tyres. Edging Hamilton for P1 by just a tenth of a second despite the tyre difference. Verstappen, in contrast, was out on the mediums and nestled into third, five-tenths off the Mercedes.

When the Mercedes duo made the switch onto the softs and run their qualifying sims, Rosberg once again drew blood first. Going first and hitting the top spot, but the gap between himself and Ricciardo was only 0.167 seconds.

Hamilton, on the other hand, flew on his flyer. Smashing Rosberg’s lap to go top by eight-tenths of a second, a full second clear of Ricciardo. Although an improving Rosberg reduced the gap to six-tenths.

Six-tenths of a second, however, was a welcoming gap for Verstappen. As once the softs were fitted on his Red Bull, yesterday’s birthday boy moved into second place – four-tenths down on Hamilton, two-up on Rosberg.

Ferrari’s best times of the day saw Raikkonen edged Vettel for fourth. With just two-hundredths of a second separating the drivers.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16 1’34.434
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 14 1’34.879 0.445
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 16 1’35.053 0.619
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15 1’35.150 0.716
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 14 1’35.170 0.736
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 22 1’35.461 1.027
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 16 1’35.776 1.342
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 17 1’35.902 1.468
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 18 1’36.222 1.788
10 Felipe Massa Williams 20 1’36.227 1.793
11 Sergio Perez Force India 15 1’36.259 1.825
12 Jenson Button McLaren 11 1’36.363 1.929
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 14 1’36.553 2.119
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault 20 1’36.604 2.17
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 15 1’36.687 2.253
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault 19 1’36.741 2.307
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 20 1’36.752 2.318
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 19 1’36.765 2.331
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 18 1’37.106 2.672
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 17 1’37.961 3.527
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 13 1’38.089 3.655
22 Fernando Alonso McLaren 15 1’41.199 6.765