Nico Rosberg was fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix going almost half a second faster than team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg set his fastest time on the soft tyres going faster than Hamilton who set his best time on the medium tyres which are the slower tyres. This is the ten time out of eleven that the Mercedes duo has been top of the time sheets. The pair looked quite evenly matched on circuit.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Raikkonen was a second down with Vettel a father .01 behind, but Vettel looked to be struggling.
The session was over before it had begun for Renault’s Kevin Magnussen as his car burst into flames, causing the Dane to jump out of his car with the team soon working hard to put the fire out.
Renault technical chief Nick Chester explained to Sky Sports “We had a fuel leak from a breather and we were running some experimental parts for Mexico, but everyone is ok and that’s the main thing. Fortunately the car doesn’t seem to be too badly damaged.”
That brought out the red flags. When the session resumed is when Rosberg set the pace.
While this circuit is not new teams there have been major changes for this weekend with Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe saying “The tarmac has been completely renewed, including alterations to kerbs, drainage and the camber of some corners, we’re therefore approach this weekend as if it were a brand new circuit.”
Fernando Alonso was fifth with Honda’s upgraded engine just 1.2 seconds off the pace of the Mercedes. However Alonso already knows he will be starting last with a thirty place grid penalty for an engine change.
Both Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were sixth and seventh, with the duo only using the hard and medium tyres. But, Verstappen was complaining about understeer.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was eighth and Sergio Perez ninth with Jenson Button, who wasn’t running Honda’s upgrade, was tenth. The other Renault of Jolyon Palmer ending up 19th fastest, ahead only of the Manors of Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein.