After racing at the Singapore street circuit a fortnight ago, the Formula 1 circus is back at a “real” race track in Sepang for the sixteenth round of the World Championship. Come the end of the first free practice session, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth fastest for Ferrari with laps in 1.36.315 and 1.36.331 respectively.
During the session they used all three compounds brought here by Pirelli, as they worked on evaluating the car’s handling on the newly resurfaced track, where no fewer than nine corners have also been modified in terms of their camber. Both drivers did an installation lap on Hard tyres, before staying in the pits for around 20 minutes, following the fire that flared up on Kevin Magnussen’s Renault. They then went out again for two runs on the Softs, followed by a further two on Mediums to end the session.
In the second session, the Ferraris were yet again third and fourth fastest behind the two Mercedes drivers. Working on the usual preparation for qualifying and the race, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen split the programme, opting to run different tyres to evaluate potential race pace.
Vettel went for the Medium and Raikkonen the Hard. Sebastian’s best time set on the Softs was a 1.35.605, with Kimi running the same compound to post a 1.35.842.
“I think we had a decent day,” Seb said. “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 shortruns, 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 tires in P2, the Soft is the preferred one; now we have to see what strategy we might choose for Sunday.”