It’s the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend with Nico Rosberg now eight points clear at the top of the drivers’ championship.
First practice saw the new championship leader Nico Rosberg finish half a second faster than team-mate Lewis Hamilton in first practice. All was going well for the British driver until he locked up going into Turn Nine on his second lap. He had to go into the pits but his time for the session was on the medium tyre and that’s almost a second slower than the soft.
The main talking point in first practice was a fire for Renault’s Kevin Magnussen. It just kept on re-igniting in the pits as the fuel kept on leaking. A leak in the fuel breather pipe was the reason given. His car had some experimental parts so perhaps not the best experiment.
There was a second gap to the Ferrari’s with Raikonen ahead of Vettel. Again Vettel wasn’t in the best of moods with his team, this time complaining about problems with the balance of his tyres.
There’s good and bad news for McLaren. The good is that Fernando Alonso finished fifth in first practice, the bad is that he has a 30 place grid penalty on Sunday. Jenson Button was 10th but could have done better and wasn’t happy with Magnussen for blocking him on his fastest lap. Sixth and seventh spots were taken by the Red Bulls with Riccciardo ahead of Verstappen.
No mistakes in the second practice as Lewis Hamilton finished 0.223 seconds faster than Nico Rosberg in second. The Ferrari’s again filled third and fourth but this time it was Vettel (in a bit of a happier mood) ahead of Raikkonen but he was still 0.661 seconds behind Rosberg. Fifth fastest was Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez in his Force India sixth and another good performance from Alonso in seventh who was using an upgraded Honda power-unit. It’s all aimed at McLaren putting on an improved performance in Japan next week, hence its introduction here and the resultant grid penalty. Honda just want to do as well as they can in front of their home fans which is understandable.
Hamilton said earlier in the week that he needs to drive better if he’s going to win the title and he showed improved form here. He set the pace throughout and was quicker than Rosberg even when on a hard tyre compared to his medium.
That all sets up another fascinating weekend as Lewis tries his best to get back to the top of the drivers’ championship. I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on qualifying as Lewis bids to get pole position.