Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in Friday practice in Sepang

Sebastian Vettel still on intermediates
Sebastian Vettel still on intermediates

Dry conditions saw Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen set the pace from Red Bull in Friday afternoon's second practice in Malaysia. However, the session was stopped 10 minutes early after a loose drain cover punctured a tire on Romain Grosjean's Haas, sending the Frenchman into the barriers.

It was not a great session for Mercedes either, who were beaten to fifth place by McLaren's Fernando Alonso, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas sixth and seventh respectively. Completing the top ten were the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, split by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Bottas and Raikkonen had been lucky to go through Turn 13 shortly before Grosjean, without completely dislodging the drain cover, which was colored red and white like the curb. Grosjean was less fortunate, and the metal cover ripped his right rear Pirelli supersoft tire to shreds before spinning him across the gravel beds and into hard contact with the tire wall.

Ricciardo in the wet morning session was 3rd in the afternoon
Ricciardo in the wet morning session was 3rd in the afternoon

Fortunately he was unharmed as the session was red flagged. Due to the nature of the incident, it was not restarted and FIA race director Charlie Whiting confirmed that all such covers will be examined and, where necessary, rewelded in place this afternoon. He put it down to the greater cornering forces being generated by the 2017 F1 cars.

Prior to that drama the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen were comfortably ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

Alonso 5th fastest. McLaren is dropping Honda just when they are coming good.
Alonso 5th fastest. McLaren is dropping Honda just when they are coming good.

Vettel lapped in 1m 31.261s on the supersofts, Raikkonen in 1m 31.865s, Ricciardo in 1m 32.099s and Verstappen in 1m 32.109s.

Mercedes' best runner, Hamilton, was 1.416s adrift in sixth place, Valtteri Bottas 1.459s in seventh. Both drivers had offs: Bottas had to go the long way around a slow Felipe Massa in Turn 10 and went through and over the gravel, Hamilton got a rear wheel over the curb in Turns 7 and 8 and had a prolonged sideways slide through a gravel trap.

Even more surprisingly, and tending to confirm suggestions that the silver cars are in trouble here where they were expected to be very quick, Alonso put his unloved McLaren ahead of them with 1m 32.564s, 1.303s off Vettel.

Perez pushed his Force India up to eighth on 1m 32.862s ahead of Hulkenberg in the Renault on 1m 33.060s and Ocon in the second Force India on 1m 33.096s.

The other surprise was that rookie Pierre Gasly out-paced Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz. As the Spaniard complained of oversteer on his way to 1m 34.104s, the Frenchman lapped in 1m 34.043s to continue the good start he made this morning.

QUOTES

Ferrari

Vettel said he was a little surprised at Ferraris pace today, and admitted that Grosjean's crash had impacted on some of the things they had wanted to try. Like Raikkonen, he was happy, but under few illusions that Mercedes will get going properly tomorrow and offer better opposition.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:51.009, P5; FP2: 1:31.261, P1

"This morning we had a bit of mixed conditions and there was not so much running. This afternoon it was better and the cars seemed to be quite ok right from the beginning of the session. Then we tried something new, but unfortunately we couldn't complete our program as we had wished to, because of the red flag. We'll see what we can do tomorrow. It's only Friday, usually the day when you spend time trying various things on the car. We would have liked to drive a little bit more, but overall it was a decent afternoon. We have a good car and it's up to us to make it work in all conditions."

Kimi Raikkonen – FP1: 1:50.734, P4; FP2: 1:31.865, P2

"Today's been ok and everything ran smoothly. In the morning we had wet conditions and only managed a few laps, and in the afternoon the session was cut short because of the issue with the track. It's a pity that we couldn't use the whole session and do more timed laps, because for sure we could have further improved. But the car was feeling good: I made some mistakes on a new set of tires but apart from that it was a pretty straightforward day. Lap times don't mean much today, as obviously we don't know what everybody else was doing."

Red Bull

Both drivers were pretty happy, if a little surprised, at their pace on the intermediate Pirelli tires in the morning session, and resigned to the deficit to Ferrari in the afternoon's. But the gap to Mercedes has prompted some optimism that perhaps they can make something of that tomorrow in their quest for another podium on Sunday.

Sepang
Sepang

Daniel Ricciardo – FP1: 1:49.719, P2; FP2: 1:32.099, P3

"It was interesting in these conditions but it was actually nice to get these runs in the wet and dry today. We were both looking pretty good in the wetter conditions and on the intermediates we were at the pace and significantly quicker than everyone else, which we'll take. This afternoon we weren't that competitive looking at Ferrari, but it looked like Mercedes struggled as well. If we can focus on ourselves we can still improve; on the short runs we needed to improve the front grip and on the long runs we needed to improve the rear, so we have just got to find a better compromise with the set-up. Just looking after that I think will be the key on Sunday. I think if we can find half a second somewhere then we'll be in the fight, we have still got a bit of work to do but we were OK. If we get some light drizzle across the weekend then we'll be looking pretty good; I won't complain if Qualifying and the race is wet!"

Max Verstappen – FP1: 1:48.962, P1; FP2: 1:32.109, P4

"I think today was positive. Of course, compared to Ferrari it can be better but it's not a bad performance and we still end the day ahead of Mercedes. From my side, I was trying quite a few set-up changes on the car but those didn't really work on the new set of Supersoft tires. I came in and changed the car but you always know that on used tires it's not fantastic to do a lap, but I still improved my time by four tenths. For sure tomorrow it will be better but we still need to improve to beat Ferrari. I missed out on doing a long run this afternoon because of the red flag, so I will see with Daniel how he is feeling and then we will decide what we can do tomorrow to improve the car. Tomorrow I'm hoping for rain, not too much that we aren't driving, but a little bit would make things interesting."

McLaren

Alonso was in superb form in both sessions, jumping up to third in FP1 despite running only in the final five minutes, and taking fifth ahead of the troubled Mercedes in FP2. Such positions are unlikely tomorrow, when others hit their stride, but were a reminder yet again of what the Spaniard could do with a fully competitive car.

Fernando Alonso – FP1: 1:50.597, P3; FP2: 1:32.564, P5

"We had a good day today. In the first session, we checked a few things on the car. We went out when the track was a bit less wet and managed to put it in third position… which was nice.

"In the second session, on a dry track, the car continued to behave well, and we had no big things we need to change for tomorrow.

"We tried several different configurations, and they proved all positive, so we need to go through the data tonight to decide what to do. The car feels good on this circuit, with a lot of grip when using the Supersoft tire.

"We missed some running due to the red flag at the end of the second session, but that happened to most of the teams. We'll try to catch up with that work tomorrow in FP3, if it doesn't rain."

Stoffel Vandoorne – FP1: 1:53.771, P12; FP2: 1:33.673, P13

"The conditions were a little bit tricky this morning, particularly this Tarmac, which felt quite slippery in the wet. This morning, there was limited running for everyone, because we were all saving tires – the weather for the remainder of the weekend looks fairly unpredictable, so we need to look after the wet-weather tires.

"The session was cut short this afternoon because of Grosjean's accident, so we lost a bit of track time. That meant we didn't really gain an understanding of our long-run pace – we only did some short-run prep and didn't do any long runs.

"Fernando and I tested some different-spec floors today. There was only one set available, and Fernando was running that today. It looks like a useful step forward.

"I'm looking forward to some more stable conditions tomorrow so we can carry our momentum forward."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

"A very satisfying day, despite the curtailed running in both sessions. We trialed some new components on Fernando's car today, and they look to be a useful new addition. They perhaps also explain a large part of the disparity between drivers, as Fernando's package was slightly better suited to the characteristics of the particular circuit.

"The red flag at the end of FP2 meant we didn't get all the high-fuel running we would have liked – but we're not alone in being in that predicament – so we'll need to adjust our run-plan accordingly for tomorrow.

"In any case, a lack of practice time often makes the race more interesting, and that would certainly suit us."

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

"After such torrid conditions in Singapore, this weekend in Malaysia seems set to become challenging once again with tropical weather.

"As the start of the FP1 was delayed due to the heavy rain, we completed the session with somewhat fewer laps than usual. Despite this, we collected precious data towards the weekend as we ran with both Full Wet and Intermediate tires.

"Conditions were better for FP2 and both drivers showed stable running. Fernando's lap times were particularly encouraging for us.

"The high temperature conditions are tough not only for the members of the team but also for our PU, therefore it is positive that we were able to finish the sessions without any issues.

"The time gap between the competitors in the midfield is close, so small differences in our settings will make a difference in tomorrow's qualifying results. We'll analyze our data tonight in order to find the most competitive set-up."

Mercedes

Team boss Toto Wolff spoke of a "fundamental" problem, a "gremlin," in Mercedes' set-up, that resulted in both drivers finding their cars horribly imbalanced and lacking grip. There'll be a lot of midnight oil burned in the Silver Arrows' garage this evening.

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:51.518, P6; FP2: 1:32.677, P6

Hamilton waves to his fans
Hamilton waves to his fans

"It's been a very difficult day. I've been struggling with the car today, so we have to review and try to understand where we have gone wrong with the balance. We're hoping that we're able to find our bearings overnight and regroup for tomorrow. I had a great group of people who were in front of my garage today all day long, sending really positive energy. So a big thank you to everyone there and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!"

Valtteri Bottas – FP1: 1:52.007, P7; FP2: 1:32.720, P7

"Those were obviously tricky practice sessions. We had quite limited running because of the rain in the morning. I also had a bit of an off in FP2 that cost us some time, we lost a few laps because of that. And then there was of course the red flag in the end. We didn't get all the test items tested today, but I think that is going to be the case with all the teams. We're definitely lacking some performance, it seems like Ferrari and Red Bull are very strong. So we have some work to do if we want to be on the front row tomorrow. The car balance itself didn't feel too bad; it's just a question of overall grip. The key area we are going to need to focus on tonight will be getting the maximum out of the tires over one lap."

Andrew Shovlin, Chief Race Engineer

"Overall it's been a very challenging day. The car wasn't working as well as it normally has done this year and the drivers were both complaining of very low grip and sliding. The car hasn't looked strong in any conditions, be it on Intermediates or in the dry conditions we had in FP2. So we're looking very carefully at the set-up and the configuration of the car just to try and understand what's gone wrong. We are clearly not getting the most out of the package here. We're going to be working very hard to unpick what we've seen today and come back stronger tomorrow. But at the moment it's clear we've got a lot of work to do if we're to present a good challenge to Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend."

Force India

Both drivers said their days were relatively unproductive. But while Perez said his car's balance was poor, Ocon said his was at least nice to drive here.

Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:54.669, P15; FP2: 1:32.862, P8

"All the interruptions, both this morning and this afternoon, meant it wasn't an ideal day. We missed out on part of our program so we couldn't prepare as well as we would have liked. The positive is that the pace of the car seems to be there. I am pretty happy with the balance up to now, but there is always some improvement to be found."

Esteban Ocon – FP1: 1:53.896, P13; FP2: 1:33.096, P10

Ocon in the morning rain
Ocon in the morning rain

"It was a strange day. There was nothing we could do about the weather this morning and in the afternoon the weird incident to Grosjean cost us all some track time. Despite the interruptions, we still managed to complete some good mileage. The car feels quite nice at the moment and I am looking forward to tomorrow. Driving the new cars around here is very enjoyable: they are just so fast around the quick corners. The weather tomorrow will play a big part, but for me it doesn't matter if it's wet or dry. The rain would probably give us some more opportunities, but we have good pace in the dry so I think we will be competitive either way."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

"It hasn't been the most productive Friday here in Sepang with two shortened sessions. However, it's the same situation for all the teams and our job now is to try and learn as much as we can from the limited running. We made sure to run on the intermediates this morning to be prepared in case we get more rain over the weekend. In the afternoon, the baseline balance of the cars was pretty good and we moved into our test program to evaluate different parts spread across the two cars. We still have one hour of practice tomorrow morning to fine-tune the cars, but we are in reasonable shape already."

Renault

Renault had a relatively trouble-free day, with Sirotkin recovering from a spin to do a very good job in FP1, and Hulkenberg again showing the underlying pace of the R.S.17 in FP2.

Nico Hulkenberg – FP2: 1:33.060, P9

"The afternoon session was ok; we were trying to learn as much as we can in a short amount of time. We weren't able to get that many laps in and obviously the red flag cost us a bit of time as well. We have some work to do on balance overnight but we'll get there for tomorrow."

Jolyon Palmer – FP1: 1:53.625, P11; FP2: 1:33.381, P11

"I'm quite happy with what we accomplished today. I think we are in a reasonable place but we definitively have some work to do on the car – but that's somewhat encouraging because the pace wasn't so bad. We need focus on balance with the Wet tires, we'll work on it and I'm sure we'll get them working for us."

Sergey Sirotkin – FP1: 1:53.521, P10

"Overall I'm quite happy with today's session. Our program was somewhat compromised by the heavy rain at the start but as soon as the car was out, I was able to quickly adapt to the conditions. I hadn't driven on a wet track in a while and it was a first for me in a current car, it was nice to get some experience in. I feel we were able to get some good runs, had a good rhythm and we were able to get good information in wet conditions which could help over the course of the weekend."

Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director

"Due to the wet conditions in FP1, we couldn't run our dry program but we did complete long runs with both cars on intermediate tires. Sergey did a good job and was reasonably quick on the intermediate tires. Both Sergey and Jo gave us our first look in wet conditions and that will be helpful should we get a wet track this weekend. During the dry afternoon session, we were able to run our planned FP2 program. The car was better balanced on the super soft tires than the soft tires and we will work on setup overnight to improve balance on both tires for FP3. The car was competitive in FP2 and we are looking forward to tomorrow whether it is wet or dry."

Williams

This was a slightly inconclusive day for Williams, with Stroll fast in the wet in FP1 but Massa sidelined by hydraulic problems. In the afternoon both were going reasonably well, until the stoppage after Grosjean's accident.

Felipe Massa – FP1: No time, P20; FP2: 1:33.394, P12

"It wasn't a great session this morning in the wet because of a hydraulic issue with the car. And then this afternoon we didn't get a lot of track time either because I did two runs, but as I was starting my long run the session was red flagged. I'm glad that Grosjean wasn't harmed in the incident; I was right behind him so saw it happen. It's difficult to say where we are at the moment because we lost a lot of laps today. There are so many teams fighting within a small window so we'll have to see how we go tomorrow."

Lance Stroll – FP1: 1:52.295, P8; FP2: 1:33.818, P14

"The track has a great flow to it. I really enjoy driving here and the car feels like it comes alive under you. It was a lot of fun to drive in both the wet and dry. It was a good day and I felt pretty good in the wet this morning, but it is not perfect yet. The strong point from today was in the wet it was pretty promising, but the weak point was I locked up in the last corner on my best lap in FP2, which was looking like a good lap. What happens tomorrow will depend on the weather."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"It was quite a mixed day, and unusually for Malaysia it was rainy this morning, which meant that the first practice session was all wet with us eventually running on the intermediate tire with Lance. Unfortunately Felipe had a hydraulics problem so he didn't get much track time, but we got some good feedback from Lance and showed reasonable pace in the wet. This afternoon's session was dry so we chose to run two sets of supersofts with both cars. The pace was reasonable on low fuel and the drivers were relatively happy with the car. On high fuel runs, Felipe only managed a few laps and Lance had only just started before the session was red flagged. We need to do some more work this evening and see where we can position ourselves ready for qualifying tomorrow."

Toro Rosso

The game of musical chairs saw rookie Gasly the only Toro Rosso driver to do both sessions. And he did a great job, looking fast, clean and, above all, confident, in each as he proved the fastest of the three pilots. Sainz had to give up his car to Gelael in FP1, and the Indonesian did a clean job, but in the afternoon the Spaniard complained of oversteer.

Pierre Gasly – FP1: 1:52.380, P9; FP2: 1:34.043, P15

Gasly thrilled to be in F1
Gasly thrilled to be in F1

"Today felt fantastic! My first day as a Formula 1 driver, first Free Practices… It's been a very special day! This morning when I drove out of the garage for the first time was a very emotional moment. I was super happy but at the same time I was focusing on the work with the team, trying to be as competitive and professional as possible from the very start. I think it's been a positive first day. In this morning's session we had tricky conditions but I managed to do quite well in the wet. In this afternoon's FP2, I kept learning and getting used to the car and all the procedures – I have to say that I feel more and more comfortable, lap after lap. Of course, I still need time to get even more confident, but we are progressing well and going step by step. We will now work hard tonight and focus on tomorrow… I can't wait to get back in the car again!"

Carlos Sainz – FP2: 1:34.104, P16

"The weekend hasn't really started like we would've liked it to… Obviously, sitting out in FP1 and missing out on some wet running this morning is not ideal, as the race on Sunday could very probably be a wet one. In this afternoon's FP2, we had problems with the drivetrain, which affected the drivability and the top speed, so we couldn't make the most out of the second session either. We therefore have a lot of work to do tomorrow to recover the track time lost today, but I'm confident we can catch up."

Sean Gelael – FP1: 1:54.610, P14

"It's a shame that this morning's FP1 was a wet session – if I say the truth, I wanted it to be a dry one so that I could really push the car, as it's a track I already knew after having driven here last year in F2. But it is what it is and, on a positive note, it's useful to also get some running in these conditions so that I'm prepared for the future, if it happens again. In the end we were quite good, our pace was okay and overall I'm happy with today."

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

"We're very excited to have Pierre join the team – he's done a great job for us today in what were tricky conditions during FP1, especially given this was his first time driving our car and it was in the wet. In the afternoon we had to condense his program and pretty much do a whole day's running in just that one session. There was the red flag, so that shortened it even more, but we managed to gather a lot of aero data, as we have some new components on the car here in Malaysia. He also practiced a lot procedurally, as it's his first time racing one of these cars, which are very complicated and there's a lot to go through and understand. The initial view is extremely positive – he handled everything very well, nothing seemed to faze him and his technical feedback has been fantastic, so he's a really good addition to the team. We are looking forward to see how he handles qualifying tomorrow and perform in the race on Sunday. On the other car, we had Sean driving in FP1, who did a good job in the tricky conditions carrying out a single longer run on the Inter tire, building up his confidence in the wet. Sean handed the car back to Carlos for FP2 but things weren't quite as smooth for him, experiencing inconsistencies with the vehicle, making the session tricky. So there is a lot of data to analyze this evening and decisions to be made to give both drivers consistent cars for tomorrow. In summary the lap times don't give the full picture and we are confident to build on today and make good progress tomorrow."

Haas

Haas were struggling in the wet in FP1, then Grosjean's car was badly damaged when he tore up the loosened drain inspection cover in Turn 13 in FP2. Fortunately, he was unharmed, but this is not a happy team tonight. They have at least been given special dispensation to break the normal curfew in order to effect repairs.

Romain Grosjean – FP1: 1:56.211, P18; FP2: 1:34.118, P17

Grosjean before his huge crash
Grosjean before his huge crash

"I think we've learned quite a lot today. It was wet in the morning and dry in the afternoon, so we had both running. I think the competitiveness on soft tires was really good. We suffered a little bit on supersofts, but we're going to work around that. Unfortunately, we didn't get much long running due to the drain coming out and the crash. That ended our day. I think there are some positives. We've made some changes on the car that worked pretty well. I'm feeling sorry for the boys, as they've got to work hard to repair the car, but I know they will do it and in a good way. We'll try to find some key element on the setup to make us go fast tomorrow. I think the boys can do it. I'm looking forward to enjoying some more laps around Sepang."

Kevin Magnussen – FP2: 1:34.343, P18

"It's not ideal that everyone else has done a session in the wet now. If it rains, I'll be behind, clearly, but I'll get around it somehow. The car handles alright in the wet. The wets and the inters are different to the previous generation of tires. We're still learning a lot but, generally, the feeling is OK. We were looking OK on the softs. I was feeling good with the car. Then we put the supersofts on and we lost some performance, especially on the front. We'll work on that for tomorrow and, hopefully, find a solution."

Antonio Giovinazzi – FP1: 1:56.339, P19

"It obviously wasn't a long session. It's a bit disappointing as it's Malaysia and this is one of my favorite tracks. I would like to have driven more than six laps in intermediate conditions, but it's a bit more experience for me, another FP1 session. I'm happy, though. I did the job that the team asked me."

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

"Not a good Friday for us. FP1 was almost rained out. We just went out, did our installation laps followed by a few laps on intermediates. There was nothing really exciting there. FP2 was too exciting with the drain cover coming up, destroying Romain's tire and putting him in the barrier. It has put us in a bad spot, at the moment. We have to see how we can get the car fixed. Kevin did his testing and there's still some work to do. I think in terms of our competitiveness, we're very positive about it. Now we're just trying to get Romain's car together again. What happened to him should not happen. Drain covers coming up at F1 circuits is just not acceptable in the year 2017. Let's see what the authorities have to say to that and to explain that it doesn't happen again."

Results

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.261 +0.000s 23
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:31.865 +0.604s 19
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:32.099 +0.838s 19
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:32.109 +0.848s 11
5 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:32.564 +1.303s 14
6 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.677 +1.416s 15
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.720 +1.459s 21
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:32.862 +1.601s 20
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:33.060 +1.799s 24
10 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:33.096 +1.835s 24
11 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:33.381 +2.120s 26
12 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1:33.394 +2.133s 20
13 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:33.673 +2.412s 15
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:33.818 +2.557s 16
15 10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:34.043 +2.782s 22
16 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:34.104 +2.843s 19
17 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:34.118 +2.857s 18
18 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:34.343 +3.082s 17
19 94 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:35.246 +3.985s 29
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:35.697 +4.436s 27

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