Malaysian GP: Rosberg fastest in FP1 as Renault are finally on fire

Nico Rosberg’s 0.491 gap to Lewis Hamilton was a false barometer to the pace differential between the two, as McLaren impress with both cars in the top 10. Kevin Magnussen’s Renault fire suspends session.

Malaysian GP: Rosberg fastest in FP1 as Renault are finally on fire
The gap Nico Rosberg had to Lewis Hamilton in FP1 was over exaggerated, but he was still quickest (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

After the opening practice session of the 16th round of the 2016 Formula One season, it is advantage Nico Rosberg in Malaysia as he out-paced team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.491.

The gap however, was a larger margin then truly separated the two, as Hamilton had a scruffy lap on the Softs, whereas Rosberg improvement from a 1:35.793 to the 1:35.227 that saw him top the session.

Behind the two Mercedes, it was a Ferrari 3-4, Kimi Raikkonen once again having the advantage over Sebastian Vettel. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso slotted in fifth, ahead of the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, although they did not run the Soft tyre, which Alonso did to set his best time.

Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 in a session where events in the pit-lane overshadowed what went on, on the freshly laid new asphalt.

Magnussen fire

After the initial install laps had taken place, the TV feed cut to the pit-lane a Renault with flames pouring out of the top of it. Quickly, Kevin Magnussen had jumped out of his burning car, helped by his mechanics and instruction from the pit-wall.

A small problem then grew worse, as the car continuously decided to spontaneously combust, as fuel was continuing to leak out. Some brave mechanics eventually doused the RS16 in enough foam and fire extinguisher to get the fuel pump on, and wheel the remains of the car back into the garage.

A fuel system glitch was suspected to have caused Kevin Magnussen's Renault to burn uncontrollably for 10 minutes. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
A fuel system glitch was suspected to have caused Kevin Magnussen's Renault to burn uncontrollably for 10 minutes. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

As the car was stuck in the middle of the pit-lane, the session was red-flagged for 15 minutes whilst it was brought under control. Thankfully, despite some smoke inhalation, everybody was ok. The team aim to get the car out for FP2, and suspect a fuel system glitch was to blame.

When the session restarted, there was a stampede out, and teams were given an extension to run the tyres Pirelli allocate for the first 40 minutes of FP1, to allow for some of the lost time, as the clock continues to run down during practice red-flags.

Close teammates

Throughout the field, with prehaps the exception of Williams, team-mates were quite evenly matched. In quite few cases, only hundredths and even thousandths separated stable mates.

 At Mercedes, only a T9 lock-up prevented Hamilton from revealing his true pace, as Rosberg mastered his similar lap, to clock the 1:35.227 that saw him top the session.

Raikkonen showed he still has it, and Vettel is on the ropes, once again finishing ahead of his team-mate this time by 0.016.

The rest of the session was a routine Friday morning, with teams experimenting with set-up and early tyre runs.

Despite some reports of understeer from Pascal Wehrlein, and “oscillations” from Button, coupled with off’s at the tight T10 right hander for Carlos Sainz and then Rosberg, the session dwindled down, leaving it 1-0 to Rosberg as things stand.

2016 Malaysian Grand Prix - First Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.277
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.491
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.088
4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +1.104
5. Fernando Alonso McLaren +1.283
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.526
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.746
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.286
9 Sergio Perez Force India +2.374
10. Jenson Buttin McLaren +2.386


Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.620
12. Valtteri Bottas Williams +2.634
13. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.959
14. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +2.694
15. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +2.828
.16. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.957
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +3.086
18. Felipe Massa Williams +3.112
19. Jolyon Palmer Renauly +3.921
20. Esteban Ocon Manor +4.809
21. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +5.400
22. Kevin Magnussen Renault No time