Malaysian GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

The final countdown

Max Verstappen, Malaysian GP 2017

Max Verstappen, Malaysian GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson in Sepang

The final countdown for the 19th and last Malaysian Grand Prix began with Free Practice 1 on Friday morning. Rain delayed the start of that session. With the track drying in the final minutes, Max Verstappen took the fastest lap ahead of his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo,

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Ricciardo and Verstappen; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes – Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault – Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Gasly has replaced Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso for an unspecified number of races.

In addition, there were four reserve drivers taking part in FP1: Charles Leclerc in Ericsson's Sauber; Sean Galael in Sainz' Toro Rosso; Sergey Sirotkin in Hulkenberg's Renault; and Antonio Giovinazzi in Magnussen's Haas.

The 15-turn 3.444-mile (5.543 km) Sepang circuit is a favorite among the drivers.

"It's probably one of the best track layouts we get to race on over the whole year with the fast corners and high grip tarmac," noted Sainz. "On top of that, it is the most physically demanding track, or one of the most physically demanding, which makes it also quite special and quite a challenge for us so we will definitely miss it. Never say never, it can always come back hopefully."

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Centigrade). The humidity was percent.

But the session was not starting. Rain has often played during the 19 years in Malaysia, and a steady rain fell on the circuit this particular morning.

The officials posted a message: "Start of the first practice session delayed indefinitely due to weather conditions."

Meanwhile, the clock had started and continued to tick down while the drivers sat in the garages.

"Start of FP1 delayed indefinitely because, frankly, it's chucking down," Force India tweeted.

Eventually the rain eased off and officials announced that the session would start after a 30-minute delay. Alonso and the Ferrari drivers were the first out on the wet track for an installation lap. Others joined them, but the Red Bull, Mercedes and Force India drivers did not venture out.

Eventually, with 40 minutes remaining, Ocon tried a lap on the intermediate rain tires. He reported that the track conditions were not too bad, and there were just a few small rivers.

With just over half an hour to go, Ricciardo posted the first lap time of FP1 – a 1:55.601 – using the inters. Vettel beat that with a 1:54.463. Ricciardo responded with a 1:53.103.

The track was drying a bit thanks to quite a few cars going around, and the drivers were getting some heat into their tires, with the result the times were falling. Verstappen posted a 1:51.201. Ricciardo went 0.007 of a second quicker.

With 15 minutes remaining, the order was Ricciardo (now with a 1:50.825), Verstappen, Stroll, Raikkonen, Vettel and Bottas.

With the track continuing to dry, Ricciardo improved to a 1:49.719 while Wehrlein had a spin at Turn 9. Verstappen got down to a 1:48.962.

The start of the final countdown ended with the top 10 in FP1 being: Verstappen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Gasly and Sirotkin.


Follow grandprixdotcom on Twitter