It was a fairly smooth start to McLaren-Honda’s Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday when both drivers enjoyed relatively trouble-free sessions as they sampled Sepang’s re-surfaced and slightly re-profiled sweeping curves for the first time.
Despite the sweltering ambient and track temperatures, both cars ran without issue, although both drivers lightly snagged the floor during their opening FP2 runs, which prompted a slight delay to patch up the bodywork.
Neither driver found a definitive set-up, but with Fernando facing a series of power unit element-change grid penalties, and changeable weather forecast over the next few days, there is still much to play for during the remainder of the weekend.
“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,” Fernando said. “We still need to see how well we can do on Saturday, 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% 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.”