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Malaysian GP 2016

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Practice 1 Report - Fire!

Nico Rosberg, Malaysian GP 2016
© Active Pictures


By Dan Knutson in Sepang

Nico Rosberg turned the quickest lap time in his Mercedes in Free Practice 1 for the Malaysian Grand Prix, but the real drama occurred very early in the session when Kevin Magnussen's Renault caught fire in the pit lane because of a fuel leak. Magnussen jumped out the car which kept catching fire again while it was sprayed with fire extinguishers. He was fine, but the car was mess and covered in foam.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Centigrade.) The humidity was 73 percent. There was a zero percent chance of rain.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

The 3.444-mile (5.543 km) 15-turn track has been resurfaced since Formula 1 was in Sepang in March 2015, and the camber has been changed in several corners.

"It's dark so that's a major difference!" Button said of the new surface. "It's clear then the temperatures are going to be very high on track, which obviously has quite a big effect on the way the tires work. It's very smooth."

The teams and drivers were anxious to try out the new surface and learn as much as possible about the track.

"It's going to be a very busy Friday, a very important Friday," Bottas said before the session began.

The Pirelli slick compounds available for the weekend were the hard (orange sidewalls), medium (white sidewalls) and soft (yellow sidewalls).

Drama! Just six minutes into the session Magnussen's Renault caught fire as the mechanics were pushing it back into the garage. He jumped out while others sprayed the car with fire extinguishers. Fuel was pouring out from the top of the air box, and the fire kept reigniting as the car sat in pit lane.

The mechanics hooked up the refueling rig and began pumping out the fuel in the car. Fire extinguisher foam covered the car and pit lane.

The session was red flagged at the 11 minute mark.

"We would tweet but things are a tad heated at the second. If you needed a reason to watch #FP1 though," Renault tweeted.

As the mechanics and marshals swept up the mess, the clock continued to countdown the session which was eventually restarted after a 15 minute delay.

There was just over one hour remaining when things got going again. Normally the teams must return one set of tires from each driver to Pirelli after 40 minutes of FP1. That period was now extended by 15 minutes.

Rosberg was the early fast guy with time of 1:35.793. Hamilton was 0.005 of a second slower. Both were on the soft tires.

Rosberg then improved to a 1:35.227. Hamilton was still second ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.

Palmer was out circulating in the other Renault which very obviously did not have the same sort of problem that caused his teammate's car to catch fire.

Fifty-five minutes into FP1, at the revised "return the tires" time, the top 10 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Perez, Button, Hulkenberg and Kvyat. Rosberg was a full second quicker than the Ferrari drivers.

The Mercedes drivers were soon back out on track. Both had the medium compound slicks on their cars. Other drivers also ran the mediums or the hards, so the lap times were not going to get any quicker at this stage. Alonso was the exception as he moved into fifth place.

As the track got rubbered in, Ricciardo used the hard tires to improve to a 1:36.753 and move ahead of teammate Verstappen.

Rosberg had a minor off at Turn 11, but there was not much drama happening on the track as the session wound down.

"What's interesting to note though is that we're already much faster than the fastest lap all weekend here in 2015: 1m39.269s." Pirelli tweeted.

With a dozen minutes remaining, 19 drivers were below that time, with the exception being the Manor teammates and Magnussen.

But the Manors were not slow in a straight line as Wehrlein was fastest through the speed traps at 202.1 mph (325.2 kmh).

The top 10 at the end of FP1 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Button.