Bottas said he was feeling quite optimistic about his day, and that the race pace felt good, but Massa had a problem with his wheel rims on the hard tyres, and lost some valuable time in the afternoon. As usual, Williams didn’t show their full hand on a Friday, so it’ll be interesting to see what progress they can make tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:37.861, P12; FP2: 1:37.016, P13
“Today was a pretty standard Friday. We got plenty of data and it was interesting to understand how the new tarmac would affect this year’s car. It definitely provided more grip. The tyres were also behaving more consistently than in previous years. The long runs were especially interesting today but the feeling was positive and we got some good data from them. We still need to improve our one lap pace, but the overall feeling is OK.”
Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:38.339, P18; FP2: 1:37.110, P15
“Unfortunately, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do today. I had to abort a few laps as we had an issue which lost us some time, so it wasn’t a straightforward afternoon. The pace also wasn’t fantastic compared to others, so we have work to do tonight to hopefully have a better Saturday.”
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
“It was a fairly normal Friday apart from the fact that we lost some time with Felipe on his set of hard tyres which, in the end, we couldn’t run due to an issue on the rim. Apart from that, we got the low fuel work done on the soft tyre which was important, and some running on high fuel for the soft and the medium compounds. Between the two drivers, I think we’re quite consistent. Clearly the track has changed a lot with the new asphalt. It’s a lot smoother, less bumpy and generates more grip. There’s definitely less degradation, which is good – but it’s the same for everyone. We need a little more understanding of where the tyre temperatures need to be on this new asphalt as the requirements on the front and the rear are quite different. We’ve done all the work we needed to do today and we now just need to look at what we’re going to do to get a bit more pace out of the car. We’re not far away from where we should be. We’re expecting the same weather and temperatures for the start of the race, so today is pretty representative of that. It should be a little cooler for qualifying with that being later in the day. It was 60C at the start of FP2 today. That obviously makes it quite difficult to manage the tyres. Our main focus tonight has to be to get the cars balanced to protect the rear tyres and to get reasonable balance for the race.”
Both drivers said they needed to make some progress, but that while the STR11 wasn’t as strong as it had been in Singapore, it was much better than at Spa and Monza.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:37.847, P11; FP2: 1:37.297, P16
“It was a good day today, we were able to complete plenty of laps on a track that’s been resurfaced, so it was important to get a lot done. I have to say that it’s a pleasure to drive on such a smooth surface! We’ve collected a lot of useful data which will help us improve for tomorrow. We now need to find a few steps forward overnight, try to make them work and then see where we end up.”
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:38.055, P15; FP2: 1:36.836, P11
“I think it’s been a very interesting day for us here today. The fact that the track has been resurfaced means it’s like being at a new track - we’ve been around three seconds quicker already compared to last year and it’s still only free practice. It’s definitely being a new challenge, with faster lap times, and I have to say that the car feels amazing to drive as there’s a lot of grip out there, so I’m enjoying it! Now we need to work towards tomorrow. As expected, we are not as strong as in Singapore, but also not as bad as in Monza or Spa, so I look forward to the rest of the weekend - it’s nice to be battling with the rest of the midfield… We will keep fighting!”
Phil Charles (Chief Race Engineer)
“An interesting day today, with the new track surface changing things quite a bit compared to previous years. Most significantly, the drivers felt less bumps and a step more grip in traction. It took us a few runs to optimise the balance around the new tarmac and in fact I think we have probably ended up with the drivers just either side of an ideal balance. Carlos was a bit too neutral and Daniil probably a bit on the understeer side. Daniil has had some floor damage today and so we will need to look into correcting for that tonight. He also had some very slow traffic on his short run so in general he has had a bit of a scrappy day and I think he will look relatively stronger on the time sheets tomorrow. Carlos has had a much smoother day and I think is a fair gauge of our performance: It is a very tight battle in the mid field with the usual suspects, plus Palmer looks quite strong in the Renault as well. In terms of our ranking, we have come back to a track with some long straights so our top speed deficit has dropped us down a bit compared to Singapore. Nonetheless, I think if we can make some good conclusions on how best to make use of the tyres, so I think we can have a decent weekend.”
Ericsson was happy with the data he gathered, and had no lasting effects from his cycling accident - a collision with a chicken - in Thailand earlier in the week. Nasr said he had some cooling problems in FP2 which compromised his session, but that he expected that it would be sorted by FP3.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:38.313, P17; FP2: 1:37.449, P17
“It has been a good first day here in Sepang. It was a typical Friday, preparing for the weekend with short and long runs on different tyre compounds. We also continued our aero measurements in order to get more information out of the aero package. Overall it was a troublefree day on which I was able to run a good amount of laps. Now I need to sit with my engineers to analyse the data in order to improve.”
Felipe Nasr - FP1: 1:38.184, P16; FP2: 1:37.547, P18
“It was a normal Friday. Due to the new asphalt, we could see that the track surface is much smoother compared to last year. We had to reassess all the tyre information to understand how the car reacts in order to work on its balance. When we did the long runs in the afternoon we had some cooling issues, because of the engine limitations for the practice sessions. It forced us to reduce our running, but these issues will be sorted out for tomorrow. Otherwise, we need to work on the car’s balance for the rest of weekend.”
Magnussen did only two installation laps before his car caught fire dramatically in the pits due to a “fuel escape from a vent.” The team did a tremendous job to rebuild the car so that the Dane could run for an hour in FP2. But the star of their day was Palmer, who did a fine job to take 12th place after making some serious improvements over FP1.
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: No time, P22; FP2: 1:37.664, P19
“We expected it to be hot in Sepang but maybe not as hot as that! My crew were great dealing with the fire and getting the car back into action for the afternoon. From my perspective, I heard the call on the radio to jump out and I didn’t need to be told twice! In the afternoon we were able to get some laps so the day wasn’t a write-off. There’s a bit too much entry oversteer with the initial set-up but we know where we want to improve.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:39.148, P19; FP2: 1:36.940, P12
“That was a pretty straightforward over my side of the garage; I think all the action was on Kev’s side today. We did have a few moments pushing the limits as we learnt the new track surface in the morning but the track’s still very rewarding to drive. We made decent progress for the afternoon session and should be well-placed for further improvement tomorrow.”
Nick Chester, Technical Director
“We had a difficult start to the day with Kevin’s car. There was a problem with a valve on a fuel breather pipe which meant that fuel escaped from the vent, causing a fire. The crew did a great job keeping everything under control so we could address the problem. We changed fuel systems for the second session and don’t expect any further issues. Jolyon had two clean sessions and was happy with his car balance in the afternoon. Kevin was able to complete half of the afternoon session and has a baseline to work with. Between both drivers we have some good information to progress set-up and tyre performance on the new track surface here in Sepang.”
Hamiton was pleased to get back on top and not to have any issues to report. Rosberg said the new surface meant continually honing the set-up as the circuit evolved, but that things had otherwise been straightforward. Altogether, both garnered plenty of data for the team to process as they head towards the all-important qualifying session tomorrow afternoon.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:35.721, P2; FP2: 1:34.944, P1
“That was a good day today. No issues to report and we got through our run plans in both sessions. There's a lot of data to analyse tonight to make sure we have a good understanding of the tyres and of our position relative to the others. Overall a good building block for tomorrow and the rest of the weekend. A big shout-out to the fans out here today. I saw them waving across in the stands at the end of FP2 and they've all got banners and caps showing their support, which is great to see.”
Nico Rosberg - FP1: 1:35.227, P1; FP2: 1:35.177, P2
“The new track surface is really enjoyable to drive. Challenging, but with good grip. It's tough to get the setup right with such an unknown element as new tarmac, but we're on the right track. Turn 15 is interesting, as you can now try several different lines if you're attacking the guy in front, so that will be good for overtaking. Looking at the race, even the soft tyre held on pretty well out there, so we don't expect any big surprises. Strategy-wise we have to run the hard compound, of course, but otherwise it's pretty straightforward. I'm looking forward now to qualifying.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“Very hot conditions here today. We've been doing our normal race preparation. The strategy is completely open for Sunday between the soft, medium and hard tyres, so we evaluated all three compounds across both cars on high fuel and low fuel. Both drivers were reasonably happy with the balance of the car. No issues save a bit of gravel clearing on Nico's car after his minor excursion this morning. A lot of data to analyse tonight to see where we are competitively and decide what's the best way to run the race. Now we look forward to qualifying tomorrow.”
Ricciardo used the hard tyre for his best time in FP1, as birthday boy Verstappen struggled initially with understeer, but both relied on the softs in FP2. The Dutchman and the Australian split their strategies and set-ups in the afternoon, with the former being happier. Their race pace looks very strong.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:36.753, P6; FP2: 1:36.337, P8
“The new asphalt is good, it gives a bit more grip which is always fun, though I don’t think I found as much grip as the others. We still have to find a little bit of time on both low and high fuel. We didn’t really find a big gain with the soft tyre on low fuel, so that’s one thing we want to address. We’ll do a bit of work tonight and definitely make some improvements for tomorrow. The last corner is not the most attractive on the calendar but it’s challenging so I guess that’s positive. If you take the inside it sort of washes you away with the negative banking, and if you go around the outside you end up doing a lot more distance, so it’s about trying to find a good compromise and making it mistake free. Track temperature was, I think, recorded at 61 degrees, I’ve never heard a number that high before. It was pretty warm and toasty out there. I think Sunday will be good fun, we just have to keep hydrated and it should be a good challenge.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:36.973, P7; FP2: 1:36.037, P5
“Formula One is where I always want to be so it’s nice to spend my birthday here. I can enjoy some birthday cake because it’s so hot at Sepang I’ll lose the kilos anyway. Both sessions were pretty good. The first practice you just had to build up to it, especially with the new tarmac, you have to get to grips with the car. I enjoyed the new surface, it seemed to have quite a bit more grip. Before, in Malaysia, we seemed to struggle with traction but the changes they have made here appear to have helped. I also think it is a lot more fun to drive. Our short runs need to get a bit better but the long runs are looking strong. The pace on the soft tyre felt decent, I feel like that tyre has potential on a long run and it allowed me to throw the car into the corners like I wanted to. It’s hard to tell where other drivers are on the first day but Sebastian (Vettel) looks strong, so we need to improve our short run in order to be competitive.”
Vettel complained initially of tyre imbalance in FP1, but said he was otherwise pretty happy with the way his day went, with the usual caveats, but Raikkonen said he was surprised by his lap time since he didn’t have a good feel for the car. Their race pace was very good.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:36.331, P4; FP2: 1:35.605, P3
“I think we had a decent day. We were testing quite a few things, and our pace didn't look too bad, at least from what I was told inside the car. Mercedes looked again very strong today on long and short runs: as for ourselves, we are pretty happy with the short runs, but I haven't seen much yet of what the other people did for their long runs. I think we can improve, especially to get the car a little bit more together. I am confident that we can find a bit here and there for tomorrow. Our target is to win and nothing less. At the same time, you need to be awake and realize that we are not strong enough to come here and say we will win: but if there is a chance, by any circumstances, then we need to be right there and take it. The new asphalt seems to be a step forward, the last corner is a bit trickier but, all in all, it is a step forward. I haven't used the hard tyres in P2, the soft is the preferred one; now we have to see what strategy we might choose for Sunday.”
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:36.315, P3; FP2: 1:35.842, P4
“It was not a very smooth day. I did not have a good feeling with the car through the sessions and I'm surprised that the lap time was not too bad, considering the fact that my feelings were far from what I wanted. The new tarmac feels pretty similar, but it's smoother and there's a bit more grip. I haven't seen what the others have done, I was concentrating on our program. Now we need to sit down and go through all things. There's work to be done, but I'm sure we can improve for tomorrow.”
Both drivers tried the American team's new front wing, and were generally happy with their individual programmes for the day.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:37.886, P13; FP2: 1:37.789, P20
“It was a difficult practice this afternoon. We just couldn’t find a balance in the car. It’s frustrating. I wasn’t happy with the car, but we just need to put our heads down and come up with a solution before tomorrow. If there’s a positive, it’s that we got some laps in this Friday, but there’s a lot of work to do to improve the weekend.”
Esteban Gutierrez - FP1: 1:37.921, P14; FP2: 1:37.048, P14
“It was a very productive day for us. The track is very interesting. It’s extremely smooth, which is changing the way the tires are working and the setup of the car. We’ve been experimenting a little today to learn everything we can about how the car is performing here. We’re progressing well and, hopefully, we’ll be able to extract the maximum from our setup, which is the most important thing we’re focusing on. Tonight we’ll be going through all the data to see which direction we need to take to perform the best we can during qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, team principal
“FP1 was pretty good. We completed all the work we needed to and both drivers did a good job. FP2 was a little more difficult, especially for Romain. He couldn’t find the balance on his car, so we’ll need to look into the reason behind this. Esteban performed well today and did a good job. Now we’re going to look at the data and see how we can get the cars ready for FP3.”
Wehrlein was never happy with his MRT05 in FP1, which didn’t sound like the positive vibe the team sought to put across. Ocon, however, was happy with the progress he made as he pushed his team mate hard in both sessions.
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:40.627, P21; FP2: 1:37.878, P21
“It was a more positive Friday than in Singapore, so I am happy. The track is great but the car is behaving differently than expected so we are looking into that at the moment. We need to analyse all the data tonight to see what we need to do to get on top of that. We’re struggling with the tyres here, but we’re still working on the set-up trying many different things for the car to get it best suited to this track.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:40.036, P20; FP2: 1:37.990, P22
“I’m pretty happy with all the work that has been done by the team between Singapore and here. We’re definitely progressing, which is very positive. We’ve made good steps between FP1 and FP2, so it’s promising for tomorrow. It’s a great circuit. Very challenging for the car and driver. The track temperature in particular is pretty interesting! But it’s all good; we made a good start and more to come, I hope.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“A really difficult couple of sessions for everyone, given the extremely high track temperatures. We did as much running as possible so from our point of view it’s been a pretty positive day’s work and the drivers have risen to the challenge very well. We have a lot of work to do tonight to figure out where we go from here, but so far so good.”
Deputy team principal Bob Fernley said that they were happy with their single-lap pace, but that they didn’t quite have what it takes to run on the tail of the Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull train in terms of race pace.
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:37.601, P9; FP2: 1:36.284, P6
“It’s a promising start to our weekend. The track is very different compared to last year, so today was all about learning as much as we could. The changes have made this circuit much more fun to drive; I think it’s a big improvement compared to the past. We had a busy session and, despite the red flag interruption in the morning, we collected a good amount of information. Our short and long-run pace seems good and gives me confidence we will be strong this weekend, especially in qualifying tomorrow. Our focus, though, is on the race: that’s when we need to be at our best. We need to make some adjustments tonight, but I think we’re getting there.”
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:37.513, P8; FP2: 1:36.390, P9
“It’s been a good day. We didn’t have any issues with the car; we ticked all the boxes on our programme and went through all the tyre compounds to collect the necessary information. It has been a straightforward day – the way you want a Friday to be. The new track surface made driving here a lot smoother because it used to be very bumpy! It’s a nice feeling, but with such strong sunshine and high temperatures you can feel the tarmac soaking up all the heat – it makes it really hot inside the car! The changes to the final corner have made it a real challenge: it’s the one corner where you can lose a good lap, right at the end, so you need to be very careful when turning in.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“It’s been a positive day overall. We had a busy testing plan and managed to complete it - that involved understanding the three tyre compounds on what is a very different circuit compared to the one we raced on last year. The organisers have done a great job resurfacing the track, getting rid of all the big bumps and adding a big challenge in turn 15, with the adverse camber. The tyres are behaving as we expected them to and the drivers were happy with the balance of the car. Of course, there is still plenty of work needed to extract more performance, especially in qualifying trim, and it’s something we will focus on tonight.”
Alonso ran the latest Honda ICE, with stronger block and revised exhaust, in both sessions and was happy with the way the MP4-31 behaved. Button had various problems, but ended up 10th in each practice.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:36.510, P5; FP2: 1:36.296, P7
“We completed a good number of laps today and got through all the tests we’d planned to do. We even managed to conduct some experiments aimed at next year’s car, which was really positive.
“We still need to see how well we can do tomorrow, especially in FP3, where we’ll be concentrating on long runs. For me, qualifying is going to be pretty short because of my penalties: I’ll do a lap to set a time within 107 percent and then I’ll watch it on TV. Then we’ll try to save as many sets of new tyres as possible.
“The new asphalt is a good improvement: there’s a lot more grip. Last year, my best Friday time was a 1m42.5s; this year I set 1.36.2 - so that’s six seconds in one year. If you consider the car has improved by two- to two-and-a-half-seconds, we get a further three seconds from the asphalt. It’s a good sensation to have so much grip.
“The weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday could be rainy - we still don’t know if quali or the race will be affected - so starting from behind might not be too bad for us.”
Jenson Button - FP1: 1:37.613, P10; FP2: 1:36.715, P10
“We were out a bit late in FP2 because some of the set-up changes we made to the car took a little bit longer than we thought. That meant I got out when everybody else was on high-fuel. Then I caught up with Kevin [Magnussen] in Turn 10, and he kept on the racing line, which hurt me in terms of lap time.
“So the single-lap pace of the car isn’t too bad - and I even think we can be further up tomorrow. The long-run pace isn’t quite there yet - but we think we know what we can do with the balance to help that.
“The new asphalt here is very strange - it feels like there’s a lot of grip, then it’s suddenly taken away from you. It’s difficult to read - it feels a bit like Sochi: the oversteer comes out of nowhere.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“The re-surfaced and re-profiled Sepang circuit poses a significant challenge to both teams and engineers this weekend. Fortunately, we had a clean day of practice and were able to gather some useful test data as we dialled the cars in during today’s practice sessions.
“Fernando made a positive start to his weekend by immediately dropping into the groove and looking impressively quick at times. It’s frustrating that he’s facing a significant grid penalty - for introducing new power unit elements - but it’s something we’d already factored into our weekend programme, and we’ll work hard to provide him with a car and a strategy to best cope with that setback on Sunday.
“Jenson’s 300th Grand Prix this weekend is a considerable milestone - and it’s one that the whole team and many people inside the paddock will be celebrating with him. He hasn’t yet got a balance that he’s fully satisfied with, but we’ve got plenty of data to analyse this evening before choosing a set-up path ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“Today’s very hot and humid free practice sessions had some minor interruptions, with an unexpected red flag due to a pit-lane fire, and sensor trouble on our cars, but I am satisfied that we managed to otherwise get through our aero, tyre and set-up confirmations according to our run programme for tomorrow’s qualifying.
“The updates that Honda has brought to our power unit for Malaysia are focused on increasing the durability while decreasing overall weight of the surrounding parts around the ICE. This consequently helps performance, but does not lead to an outright increase.
“Both sessions ran very smoothly, and we were able to gather track running data that we cannot test on the dyno. We will now focus on analysing the data thoroughly to prepare the power unit for future race use.”
Paul Hembery, motorsport director
“The new asphalt in Malaysia seems to be quicker, and despite the hottest track temperatures seen in recent memory, all three of our compounds here stood up extremely well to the punishment, allowing times that were sometimes nearly five seconds faster than the equivalent sessions last year. But with the chance of different weather conditions for the remainder of the weekend, there are still a number of complex variables left to play out, which makes planning the strategy quite tricky at this point.”