Malaysian Grand Prix: Red Bull and Ferrari take first and second Friday practice as Mercedes struggle
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News September 29, 2017 Updated: 7:44 PM
SEPANG, Malaysia -- Ferrari and Red Bull finished on top in the first and second practice session ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. This will mark the final year for the event, which has been on the F1 calendar for the last nineteen years.
The first session opened with wet conditions. Max Verstappen finished with a time of 1:48.719 and was 0.757s ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Mercedes found themselves off to a rough start as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both struggled with balance and grip and could only manage to finish sixth and seventh in the first session.
“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," said Verstappen.
The second session saw Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen take the top spots on free practice two. Vettel finished 0.604s ahead of his teammate with Ricciardo and Verstappen about half a second behind in third and fourth.
“This morning we had a bit of mixed conditions and there was not so much running,” said Vettel. “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 programme as we had wished to, because of the red flag. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow."
Fifth went to McLaren's Fernando Alonso after finishing third in the first session. Alonso finished ahead of Mercedes in both sessions which shows the struggles that the silver arrows may face this weekend.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished outside the top three in six and seventh, repeating their results from the first session.
"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."
Force India's Sergio Perez took eighth and ended 0.496s ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg in ninth.
Perez's teammate Esteban Ocon took tenth followed by Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault in 11th. Felipe Massa finished 12th for Williams after not having any time on the track in the morning session.
Stoffel Vandoorne took 13th in the second McLaren with Lance Stroll finishing 14th for Williams after running into the ballard, an orange cone between the track and the pit lane entrance.
Pierre Gasly, who makes his Formula One debut with Toro Rosso this weekend, finished 15th ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was 0.061s slower than his new teammate in 16th.
“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," said Gasly.
Haas' Romain Grosjean ended the day in 17th after a loose drain cover on Turn 13 ripped his car's tire clean off the rim sending him flying into the barrier. The crash triggered a red flag and due to safety concerns the session was not restarted and ended 20 minutes early.
Grosjean's teammate, Kevin Magussen finished 18th followed by the Sauber's of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson in 19th and 20th.