Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen set the quickest lap of a weather-disrupted opening practice session in Malaysia, as heavy rain led to a delayed start and a shortened outing for F1:s teams at the Sepang Circuit.
Verstappen posted a time 1:48.962s on intermediate tyres late in the session to finish 0.757 seconds clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with third place going to Fernando Alonso, though the McLaren driver was a further second behind.
The session was due to start at 11am local time but intermittent showers in the morning gave way to heavy downpours in the half hour before first practice. The rain was so heavy that Race Control at first indicated that running would be delayed indefinitely.
Following a number of reconnaissance laps by the safety car conditions were deemed to be driveable and at 1130 the session got underway though it was curtailed to just an hour.
After a number of drivers took to the track to assess the conditions on full wet tyres there followed a lull as teams waited for an improvement in the weather.
The rain eventually halted and Force India duo Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez headed out on intermediate tyres. Ricciardo followed and the Australian became the first man with a time on the board, recording a lap of 1:55.601s halfwaty through the shortened session.
Verstappen improved to 1:51.201 as the track dried but Ricciardo was soon back on top first by the slight margin of 0.007s and then by the sizeable amount of 1.4s as the conditions got markedly better. Verstappen took advantage and late on posted his best time of the session to take top spot.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth respectively, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton sixth fastest. The Briton only completed eight laps and ended up 2.556s off the pace. Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was seventh ahead of Williams’ Lance Stroll.
New Toro Rosso recruit Pierre Gasly, who is standing in for the benched Daniil Kvyat, was ninth quickest, with Renault reserve Sergery Sirotkin completing the top 10.
2017 Malaysian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Heuer 1:48.962 11
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:49.719 0.757 12
3 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:50.597 1.635 6
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:50.734 1.772 12
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:51.009 2.047 12
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:51.518 2.556 8
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:52.007 3.045 10
8 Lance Stroll Williams 1:52.295 3.333 9
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:52.380 3.418 14
10 Sergey Sirotkin Renault 1:53.521 4.559 10
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:53.625 4.663 10
12 S.Vandoorne McLaren 1:53.771 4.809 10
13 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:53.896 4.934 6
14 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso 1:54.610 5.648 13
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:54.669 5.707 4
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:55.280 6.318 10
17 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:55.652 6.690 10
18 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:56.211 7.249 8
19 Antonio Giovinazzi Haas 1:56.339 7.377 6
20 Felipe Massa Williams 3