Sebastian Vettel tops the times in FP2 at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
As the track presented the first dry running of the weekend, Sebastian Vettel soared to the top ahead of the Red Bulls. Creating a six-tenths margin over his team-mate as the German chases to claw back points in the F1 title race. The session, though, was called short as Romain Grosjean crashed out of the session as a drain cover flicked up and shreaded his rear-right tyre.
After a morning downpour left FP1 delayed, the ever-drying Sepang track left Verstappen going top on the intermediate tyres from team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
As the rain continued to hold off between sessions, the track further dried to present the first fully dry session of the weekend. With last year’s pole lap time already bettered with an absolute track record at the hands of Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel initially set the fastest time of the early stages on the soft compound tyres with a 1:32.566. Moving ahead of Verstappen, who had first bettered the pole lap time of 1:32.850 from a year ago, set by Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was struggling like his team-mate as both Silver Arrows ran through the gravel at Turns 7/8 and 11. With Hamilton suffering a half spin in the double right handers and Bottas damaging his Mercedes in his off after just 20 minutes.
While Mercedes worked on their machines, with Hamilton changing the front suspension in a bid to aid his handling horrors, Ferrari returned to the track along with Red Bull. Seeing Ricciardo initially jump to P1 as he edged a 1:31.
Vettel, on the other hand, dipped into the 1:31s along with his team-mate. Smashing the previous best lap time to create a six-tenths lead over his team-mate who was marginally compromised at the final corner by Lance Stroll running deep.
Verstappen, too, was compromised at the final corner as understeer sent the Red Bull ace off-line and unable to reply.
With qualifying simulation runs completed, race programmes settled in with both Renault drivers posting consistent 1:34s on the supersoft rubber. Highlighting the lack of degradation the Pirelli rubber is showing in Malaysia.
The session, however, did not start perfectly as Palmer reported “there’s a little oversteer off the brakes,” adding the oversteer occurred “at low speed”.
Issues also befell Toro Rosso as Carlos Sainz returned to action having sat out FP1 in place of Sean Gelael. Reporting his car was “undrivable’ and “this is giving me so much oversteer”.
Pierre Gasly’s debut weekend as a race driver also hit a bump in the road during FP1, as the Frenchman entered the pits after just 10 minutes with smoke billowing from what was Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. However, just another 10 minutes later and the Frenchman was back out on track.
Late drama, however, would bring the session to a stop as the initial pace-setter, Romain Grosjean, suffered a high-speed crash that brought out red flags with 20 minutes on the clock.
Romain had been following the Finnish pairing of Bottas and Raikkonen through the final sector when Valtteri initially dislodged a drain cover that sits inside the kerb.
When Raikkonen then immediately followed, the cover was further dislodged. Leaving the dangerous item sticking up when Romain arrived. Instantly puncturing and shredding his rear-right tyre upon impact. Spinning the Haas through the gravel and into the barrier.
Charlie Whiting immediately then red flagged the session and headed straight for the safety car to go and inspect the track, whilst Romain headed for the medical centre for general checks.
Deciding to stop the session there and then, rather than restarting. Giving the marshals time to inspect all other drain covers around the circuit.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||19||1’32.099||0.838|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||11||1’32.109||0.848|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||20||1’32.862||1.601|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||24||1’33.096||1.835|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||Renault||22||1’34.043||2.782|
|16||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||19||1’34.104||2.843|