This weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix looks set to be a closely-fought affair after Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in Friday’s second practice session at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
The Red Bull Racing driver moved to the top of the timesheets early in the 90-minute session with a quick lap on Pirelli’s Soft compound tyres, going marginally quicker than teammate Max Verstappen.
At the half-hour mark, Valtteri Bottas – fastest in Friday’s opening session – and then Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton switched to the Ultra Soft rubber and went quicker, demoting Ricciardo to third. The Australian then made his own switch to Ultra Soft tyres and posted an unchallenged 1:17.801 to return to the leaderboard.
Hamilton attempted to respond with another Ultra Soft run, but could only manage a time 0.131 seconds off Ricciardo’s ultimate pace. The World Championship leader had spun earlier on at Turn 11, but managed to rejoin without damage.
Verstappen finished the session prematurely with amid high oil consumption concerns, with his best time just 0.032 seconds slower than Hamilton.
The Dutch driver was pursued by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, who were themselves separated by less than one-tenth of a second. Vettel’s session was briefly interrupted when his in-cockpit fire extinguisher went off, forcing him back to the pits for a hasty change of overalls.
Back out on track, the German had his own off-track moment at Turn 11 before moving into fourth-fastest overall halfway through the session.
Having set the morning’s practice pace, Bottas complained of a loss of grip compared to FP1 and could manage no better than sixth-fastest with a time four-tenths slower than his best effort from the earlier session.
Briefly quickest in the opening minutes of the session before falling down the order, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso used a late run on Ultra Soft tyres to finish the session seventh-fastest, displacing local driver Sergio Pérez to eighth-fastest in his Force India.
The Mexican’s respective former and current teammates, Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Ocon, rounded out the top ten.
Hülkenberg’s new Renault teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. finished the session eleventh-fastest ahead of the Williams’ of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, who were split by Toro Rosso newcomer Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander had a spin at Turn 6, but was able to continue.
After missing out on FP1 with Honda power unit dramas, McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne had his running further compromised in this session thanks to a loose wheel. Once the problem was fixed, the Belgian went on to complete 32 laps for the session and finished fifteenth-fastest.
Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean managed just thirteen laps between them in a troubled session. After sitting out FP1 for Sean Gelael, Gasly was able to chalk up just 10 laps in his Toro Rosso thanks to Renault power unit issues.
Grosjean’s session was briefer and rather more dramatic. The Frenchman caused a red flag just three minutes into the session when he spun exiting the final corner, somehow managing to keep his Haas away from the wall. Although able to recover from his acrobatics, his left-rear tyre delaminated while he drove down the start/finish straight which sprayed bits of tyre and bodywork across the track.
The session was stopped for almost ten minutes to allow marshals to clear away the debris, and Grosjean did not return to the circuit for the remainder of the session.
Saturday’s final practice session in Mexico City will begin at 10:00 local time.
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