Malaysian GP: Hamilton fastest as rivals content with long run pace

Hamilton hits back in second practice from Sepang, with a comfortable margin over Rosberg. Ferrari, Red Bull content with long-run pace, as both McLaren are again in the top 10.

Malaysian GP: Hamilton fastest as rivals content with long run pace
Lewis Hamilton looked in supreme form under the afternoon sun in Sepang. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Lewis Hamilton made it 1-1 for the weekend against team-mate Nico Rosberg by topping Second Practice in Sepang by 0.223 from the sister W07 Hybrid. Hamilton’s time was also the fastest seen in Malaysia for many years, dipping into the high 1:34’s with a 1:34.944.

A mistake on the Soft tyre run in FP1 handed Rosberg the advantage, but Hamilton made amends in FP2, by comfortably bettering the time that Rosberg set.

Behind the top two, the Ferrari’s switched order from FP1, with Sebastian Vettel third and Kimi Raikkonen fourth. Max Verstappen claimed his Red Bull was looking very strong, in terms of long-run pace as he claimed fifth, ahead of Sergio Perez and a pumped up Fernando Alonso.

Running a new Honda PU for Friday, Alonso ended up just 1.352 down on Hamilton’s benchmark. The unit will be taken out and replaced by the engine used in Monza, as the latest spec is a Suzuka special, intended for Honda’s home race next time out.

Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button ensured that the 10 drivers who were in the top 10 in FP1, were so again in the afternoon running, by finishing eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.

To Rosberg, to Hamilton

After the opening stages were void of any noteworthy incidents or action, it was Vettel who clocked in the first representative time, although Rosberg blitzed that seconds later by the best part of 1s.

After a difficult few weekends in recent times, Hamilton, arguably on the back-foot following the morning session, looked on fire in the afternoon, his pace on the medium tyres including a very quick 1:35.956, which moved him to the summit, with just over half an hour gone.

The time difference between the two title rivals was more representative, with only hundredths and sometimes even thousandths of a second separating the two, that was until the Soft tyres were bolted on, and Hamilton clocked the 1:34.944 which went untroubled as focus then switched to race-pace throughout the field.

After Hamilton had gone fastest, the session slowed down, with focus not on out-right lap-time but consistency.

The reprofiling of T15 hasn't gone down well with the drivers, as they have to take a much wider line than previously. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
The reprofiling of T15 hasn't gone down well with the drivers, as they have to take a much wider line than previously. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Renault record rebuild

Kevin Magnussen wanted to be on fire coming into the weekend, although whether he had the events of FP1, where fuel breather issue, effectively a valve, caused the car to continuously catch fire for 10 minutes.

Anyhow, his ​Renault mechanics quickly got to work to try and get the Dane out for some running, so his Friday wasn’t a complete waste. The actual PU and gearbox were fine, if a bit burnt, and it was mostly a cosmetic rebuild that was required.

Out with just over half the session remaining, just over four hours since the RS16 toasted itself, the time was valuable. A slow install lap indicated no problems and he set off and some long-runs.

The final turn, T15 has been re-profiled for 2016, due to drainage issues. The result is a corner with significantly more camber, as the apex has been risen around one metre. Therefore, drivers were tending, throughout the day, to run wide into the final turn, for a better exit, Magnussen made a mistake, and cut across the grass, pitting in, before driving straight through the pits, which he actually didn’t need to.

Malaysian Grand Prix - Second Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.944
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.233
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.661
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.898
5. Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.093
6. Sergio Perez Force India +1.340
7. Fernando Alonso McLaren +1.352
8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.393
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.446
10. Jenson Button McLaren +1.771
11. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1.892
12. Jolyon Palmer Renault +1.996
13. Valtteri Bottas Williams +2.072
14. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +2.104
15. Felipe Massa Williams +2.166
16. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.353
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2.505
18. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.603
19. Kevin Magnussen Renault +2.720
20. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.845
21. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +2.934
22. Esteban Ocon Manor +3.046