Malaysia’s hot and humid conditions were on full display during the two practice sessions (FP1 and FP2) Friday at Sepang International Circuit as teams competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship prepared for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The first of two 90-minute sessions around the 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile), 15-turn track on the outskirts of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur began under full sun with an air temperature of 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) and 72 percent humidity.
Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez were set to test a new front wing that was fitted to each of their Haas VF-16s, but minutes into the opening practice, a red-flag stoppage thwarted those efforts. The Renault of Kevin Magnussen was spewing fire as he was pushed back into his garage after an installation lap. Magnussen made a quick exit from the cockpit as his crew battled the flames with a barrage of fire extinguishers. With Magnussen unharmed and the fire out, safety crews needed approximately 15 minutes to clean up pit lane.
Having set their respective installation laps on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tires, Grosjean and Gutiérrez opted to use this compound exclusively for the remainder of FP1, with an additional timed run on fresh rubber followed by two more timed outings on their used sets.
Grosjean made a total of 22 laps, with his best time coming on his 14th lap – a 1:37.886 that placed him 13th fastest. Gutiérrez turned 20 laps, with his 12th lap being the quickest – a 1:37.921 that put him just behind his teammate in 14th.
Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton paced the 22-driver field, finishing 1-2 in FP1. Rosberg’s quick time of 1:35.227 was .494 of a second better than his title rival Hamilton.
The heat and humidity from FP1 continued into FP2, as did Haas F1 Team’s tire reconnaissance. With the track temperature soaring to 57 degrees Celsius (135 degrees Fahrenheit), Gutiérrez opted to run the Pirelli P Zero Orange hard tire for the first time, while Grosjean started on another new set of White mediums. Gutiérrez completed seven laps on his opening stint and Grosjean made six.
The drivers’ next stint was a qualifying simulation, with both pilots using the P Zero Yellow soft tire. Unsurprisingly, Gutiérrez and Grosjean netted their fastest times of the day. Gutiérrez earned a quick time of 1:37.048, secured on his 10th lap to place him 14th overall. Grosjean’s 10th lap also proved to be his quickest, as a 1:37.789 effort while battling understeer placed him 20th fastest.
Grosjean and Gutiérrez closed out FP2 with long runs with high fuel loads, each with an eye toward Sunday’s 56-lap race. Gutiérrez completed 14 laps on a set of used Yellow softs before pitting for a set of used Orange hards for one final lap. Grosjean utilized a used set of White mediums for his 14-lap run through to the checkered flag.
It was Mercedes that was 1-2 again in FP2, but this time it was Hamilton who topped Rosberg. Hamilton’s quick time of 1:34.999 edged Rosberg by a scant .233 of a second.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 95 laps – 48 by Gutiérrez and 47 by Grosjean.