Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the second practice session of the weekend ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, in searing heat and a track temperature of 58 degrees Celsius. The Brit was four tenths of a second quicker than team-mate Nico Rosberg and looks to be back on track again performance wise this weekend.
The current world champion set a time of 1:34.944 to take the top spot on a set of the soft tyres, which he set midway through the session, when most teams completed their qualifying simulations. The Brit powered round the circuit in supreme fashion to go top of the order ahead of his team-mate.
It was a busy session for Rosberg who received calls from the team throughout FP2 to watch the left rear temperature as it was on the limit. The squad also ran through a five second penalty simulation for good measure, just to ensure they covered all race day eventualities.
Interestingly, both silver arrows drivers completed the first half of the FP2 session on the hard compound tyre, and were still only three tenths off the time set by the Scuderia Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel on the softs, who finished the session in third place.
The German’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who initially reported “we have to check the car, something is not correct with the car” over team radio whilst doing long runs on the hard tyre, was fourth. The team confirmed the Finn had some setup issues with the front, which were swiftly rectified, before the 2007 world champion finally switched to a soft tyre run much later than his competitors, immediately bumping up the order from nineteenth spot to fourth.
Max Verstappen was the first of the Red Bull Racing drivers in fifth, but a second down on the lead time set by Mercedes, he did however set the fastest time of the session on the medium tyre. The Dutchman was just ahead of the Sahara Force India of Sergio Perez, who was once again looking strong during the practice sessions and could pose a threat to the top order this weekend considering his excellent tyre management abilities.
McLaren-Honda F1 Team driver Fernando Alonso continued to run the new spec Honda engine in FP2 after a successful run in FP1 with no issues becoming apparent, and finishing in the fifth fastest position. It is believed the Spaniard will revert back to the Singapore engine for FP3 onwards, but there are definite positive signs for McLaren so far this weekend, with Alonso ending the FP2 session in seventh place, ahead of one Red Bull and just three tenths off the pace of the other.
Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, just four hundredths of a second quicker than Alonso’s McLaren, but looked like he possibly had more to give than his placing suggests. The Australian was one tenth clear of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, who was struggling with understeer in the VJM09 early on.
Jenson Button, who is celebrating his 300th race start this weekend, appeared to be struggling with the MP4-31 during the first half of the session, but eventually finished in tenth. The Brit left it late to complete a soft tyre run, and on his first attempt at a timed lap on the softer compound, was forced to back out of it after Kevin Magnussen got in his way, causing the usually calm and collected Brit to gesticulate at the Renault Sport F1 Team driver.
Carlos Sainz Jnr, who was suffering from oversteer early doors, was eleventh for Scuderia Toro Rosso. The Spaniard also had to contend with his brake by wire not working, and was advised by his team to go easy on braking. He was ahead of Renault Sport F1 Team driver Jolyon Palmer in twelfth, a strong position for the Brit, who is often seen much further down the order on a Friday.
Valtteri Bottas was a lowly thirteenth place for the Williams Martini Racing, and two seconds off the pace of the Mercedes. The Grove based squad may be slightly worried having been beaten by both Force India and McLaren drivers in this session, however they do tend to hold something back on a Friday, so expect to see more from Williams and the Finn tomorrow.
Esteban Gutierrez was fourteenth in the first of the Haas F1 team runners, which is now often the case in this second half of the season, with Felipe Massa six hundredths off the Mexican’s pace in fifteenth place.
Daniil Kvyat was sixteenth, half a second down on his team-mate, and back to reality after a strong weekend last time out in Singapore.
It was seventeenth and eighteenth place for Sauber F1 Team drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, who was just one tenth up on Renault driver Magnussen.
The Dane started the session late whilst mechanics continued to work on his car following a fire on the RS16 during FP1 earlier today. The team had been testing a new fuel system, which looks like it may need some re-thinking!
After the session Renault Technical Director Nick Chester confirmed the issue was caused by a fuel leak from a breather, whilst they were at full fuel checking experimental parts, and the damage was really only superficial.
Magnussen did eventually get back out onto track with forty-five minutes of the session remaining, but his first lap was a little bit wayward as he found himself having to go off-road, after missing the apex at the final turn and being unable to find his way back on track.
Romain Grosjean continued to struggle with set-up in the Haas, and finished down in twentieth place, just one tenth ahead of Manor Racing Team driver Pascal Wehrlein, with team-mate Esteban Ocon bringing up the rear.
Mercedes once again look supreme at the head of the field, though Red Bull look to have strong long run pace with Verstappen. After that however it is a close run fight, between Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and even McLaren.
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – FP2 Results
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