Ferrari remains on top as Raikkonen sets the pace in FP3 at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
At first, Lewis Hamilton appeared to have brought Mercedes back into the race after a less than perfect Friday left the Silver Arrows head scratching. But an error on his flying lap left the old-aero element running Briton down the order whilst Ferrari leapt to the top with a commanding lead. A strong start to the day, until an issue developed late on that left Sebastian Vettel limping back to the pits.
Sixth and seventh place was all Mercedes could muster in the first dry running at the Malaysian Grand Prix, 2017. Falling down the order from the top in Singapore to 1.4 seconds down, a gain of a second after their no-show in the rain-delayed FP1.
This lack of pace left Mercedes pondering where to go on Saturday morning, with just one-hour of track time remaining before qualifying begins and Parc Ferme rules come into force. Locking the cars into the set-ups fitted.
The lack of track time on offer left Mercedes opting for a straight comparison between their drivers. with Hamilton returning to the older aero-elements, rather than the new additions fitted to Bottas’ car such as the larger ‘S’ shaped bargeboards.
The older elements, though, proved sufficient at first as Hamilton’s first run of the day moved the Briton ahead of the Finn by four-tenths of a second as he set the early pace with a 1:32.650, bettering the benchmark set by the Ferrari’s.
Fresh tyres later into the session, however, demoted Hamilton to fifth place as Bottas marginally slipped ahead and Ricciardo took on the supersoft tyres for the first time to go P1 by 4-tenths of a second.
As for Hamilton, his run mid-way through the final practice session resulted in no gains after running too deep at the final corner and losing time.
In contrast, both Ferrari’s improved greatly in the mid-session flying runs. Seeing Raikkonen snatch the top spot as he edged Vettel by one and a half tenths. Gaining two-tenths on his team-mate in the first sector alone, while Vettel complained regarding his track position for out lap. Suggesting the German felt hampered by traffic as he looked to build the temperatures of his tyres.
Gaining two-tenths on his team-mate in the first sector alone, while Vettel complained regarding his track position for out lap. Suggesting the German felt hampered by traffic as he looked to build the temperatures of his tyres.
Issues again struck at Renault for Jolyon Palmer as he suffered yet another brake issue. With his latest failure leaving the Briton, currently without a 2018 race seat, with a brake peddle going straight to the floor, running straight off at Turn 15, and damage to the car.
Elsewhere, Toro Rosso saw Pierre Gasly arrive back in the pits once more with smoke flowing from the rear of what was Daniil Kvyat’s car. Suffering the same issue for the second day in a row.
While at McLaren, Fernando Alonso slid through the final corner after 20-minutes. Pitching his Honda-powered wagon into a spin as the rear-stepped out mid-corner. Adding another smear to the Woking outfits day after an early pressure issue kept the car in the garage.
As for Haas, having repaired Romain Grosjean’s car, after the red-flagged second practice brought about when a drain cover flicked up and shredded the Frenchman’s tyre, the team was left working on Kevin Magnussen’s car part-way through the hour-long session as the Dane was struck with an electronics issue. Though the team was able to send K-Mag back out with 10-minutes remaining on the clock.
Though the team was able to send K-Mag back out with 10-minutes remaining on the clock, Magnussen soon returned to the radio reporting the issue had returned while running in low gears with high revs.
Sebastian Vettel, too, suffered late on with an engine failure ending his session early. Bringing the Ferrari back into the pits at a very low speed for a precautionary engine change, before contact between Verstappen and Palmer at the final corner left the Red Bull with a puncture and the Renault with half a front wing.
The contact between the pair came about when Verstappen was crawling on a slow lap and Palmer was approaching at pace on his flying run. Taking to the inside to try and move ahead, only for Verstappen to turn in as Palmer locked up. With a puncture, Verstappen then drove partly in the wrong direction to enter the pit entry lane he was not originally intending for.
Both drivers were later called to the race stewards to discuss the incident. While Vettel’s precautionary engine change after an electronics issue means he moves onto his final unit of the year with six races to go.
Early in final practice, Mercedes anticipated rain at some part of the session. But while the downpour did not fall, the delay in the arrival of the rain pushed the threat back and towards qualifying.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||16||1’32.091||0.211|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||17||1’32.579||0.699|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||20||1’33.209||1.329|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||21||1’33.290||1.41|
|15||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||Renault||22||1’33.924||2.044|
|16||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||Renault||24||1’34.206||2.326|