Vettel fastest in practice

Posted October 02, 2017

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel set the pace in second practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix as title rival Lewis Hamilton struggled in his Mercedes.

As F1 bids farewell to the Sepang International Circuit after 19 seasons, Sebastian Vettel could well kiss goodbye to his 2017 title hopes if he doesn't dent Lewis Hamilton's lead soon.

Engine problems for Vettel's Ferrari denied him the chance to set a lap time in Saturday's qualifying session - and could prove to be a huge moment in the championship race.

Mercedes has endured a puzzling weekend at a circuit most believed would favour the world champions, having struggled for pace since the opening practice session.

Verstappen, who turned 20 on Saturday, has been strong in qualifying all season but this was just his second podium of 2017 and he put the win down to a courageous overtake on race-leader Hamilton at the start of lap four.

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Those changes left drivers facing two back-to-back races in Sepang on Saturday, with no time in between for a re-fuel.

The victory was the second of Verstappen's grand prix career, after a first in Spain past year, and came a day after his birthday.

He spent the rest of the session in the pits and will now start from last place on Sunday - way behind Hamilton, who will start from the front for the 70th time in his career.

With tropical downpours an ever-present threat, the former champions could find themselves in the frame again. "The Ferraris still looked like they were ahead", Hamilton said. It was also his ninth pole of the season and fifth in Malaysia.

But, even with Vettel out of contention it did not come easy, with Mercedes having struggled all weekend to extract pace from their vehicle.

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Something tells me Kimi Raikkonen is hoping for just that.

Despite starting from last on the grid, compared to Hamilton who will see a clear road ahead of lights out, Vettel believes that he'll be able to fight back and aim to make up positions of the race tomorrow, but admits it feels a shame that issues occurred when his auto felt positive.

"It's a surprise to be up here".

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were third and fourth on a frustrating day for Mercedes championship leader, Hamilton who was only sixth fastest with Valtteri Bottas seventh.

He will share the second row of the grid with the Dutchman who engaged in a bit of fun banter with Raikkonen after qualifying. I think that is what Malaysian fans want to see...

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Frenchman Pierre Gasly, making his Formula One debut this weekend after being drafted in as a replacement for under-performing Russian Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso, was 15th fastest. The German took three in four years with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, missing out in 2012 thanks to a collision with Narain Karthikeyan.