F1 Raceweek: Vettel with ground to make up in Malaysia, loose drain cover halts practice

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Sebastian Vettel arrives in Malaysia with ground to make up following his nightmare race in Singapore last time out.

Vettel and Ferrari colleague Kimi Raikkonen crashed out on the opening lap at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in a first-corner collision that also took out Max Verstappen.

Championship rival Lewis Hamilton won the race to extend his lead in the standings to 28 points with six races to go, putting the Mercedes man in pole position to win a fourth Formula One world title.

And momentum is firmly with the Briton, who has won the last three grands prix, with Vettel having triumphed in just one of the last eight races.

Elsewhere on the grid, Frenchman Pierre Gasly makes his F1 bow after replacing Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso.

This will be the final grand prix to be held in Malaysia - for the time being, at least - after the country pulled out of hosting a round from 2018 onwards.

 

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM PRACTICE

Vettel was quickest in a promising start for Ferrari and there was drama when a loose drain cover sent Romain Grosjean careering into the barriers to cut practice short.

The German set a lap record of one minute and 31.261 seconds on supersoft tyres in FP2 and team-mate Raikkonen was 0.604secs slower to sit second on the timesheets when the session was brought to a premature end.

Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen were third and fourth respectively after the Dutchman had gone quickest in a wet FP1 - which was delayed by half an hour due to standing water on the track - in a one-two ahead of his Red Bull colleague.

Hamilton was only sixth fastest in FP2, during which both he and team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was seventh, found themselves in the gravel.

Fernando Alonso was third in FP1 and was fifth when the second session was halted after a metal drain cover ruptured a rear tyre on Grosjean's Haas, sending his car spinning across the gravel before smashing into a tyre wall.

Grosjean walked away from the incident unharmed, but the red flags came out to end the session before an FIA investigation got under way.

Rookie Gasly outpaced Carlos Sainz, his Toro Rosso team-mate, three days after replacing Kvyat.

 

STANDINGS

Drivers
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 263
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 235 (-28)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 212 (-51)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 162 (-101)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 138 (-125)

Constructors
1. Mercedes - 475
2. Ferrari - 373 (-102)
3. Red Bull - 230 (-245)
4. Force India - 124 (-351)
5. Williams - 59 (-416)

 

PREVIOUS WINNERS
2016: Ricciardo
2015: Vettel
2014: Hamilton

 

WEATHER FORECAST

Thunderstorms are expected in Sepang over the weekend and, if they strike during qualifying or the race, could be a major factor.