Following their woeful season debut in Melbourne, it appears the Honda technicians have allowed the wick to be turned up in their new power unit. Despite some of the hottest temperatures at an F1 circuit in recent memory, the McLaren Honda combo delivered 13 relatively trouble free laps for each of its drivers.
Jenson Button required an engine change before the session began, the suspected problem was his ICE and Turbo unit, though this may be just precautionary and not a failure.
McLaren Honda have indeed made a big step forward here in Malaysia, and given the fastest laps will be battling with Force India in qualifying, and we could see an MP4-30 make it into Q2.
Prior to this session, Mercedes had dominated FP1 & 2 with Ferrari the best of the rest.
Rosberg was to repeat the feat for the team and during his thirteen laps in the session and he always looked to be driving well within himself and the capabilities of the car.
However, the reigning world champion was not to have the best of preparations for qualifying as he consistently complained of braking issues. The team adjusted the torsion bars before Hamilton’s final run and Lewis’ immediately improved by nearly a full second per lap finishing second just under 0.2s behind Rosberg.
The Ferrari’s were again the next best team, with Raikkonen having the edge over his new teammate for most of the session, though he suffered a puncture early on and limped back to the pits. Vettel managed a late run to jump into fourth place on the timesheets, and just 0.021s behind Kimi.
11 minutes into the session and Pirelli tweeted: “We’re seeing some of the hottest temperatures on track that we can remember. Big test for the tyres.”
The lap times between the hard and medium compounds appears to average around 1-1.2s, though the degradation of both compounds is similar.
On the longer runs, the hard tyre times were falling away at around 0.2s a lap, whilst the softer medium compound held up well with lap time degradation at around just 0.3s per lap.
This means the medium tyre now looks set to be the favoured tyre for the majority of the race.
Bottas in the Williams had suffered somewhat with his back yesterday and his long run pace was 2 seconds a lap slower than teammate Massa. Today, the Finn looked better and both he and Felipe had a trouble free session finishing line astern behind the two Ferrari’s.
Red Bull have made massive improvements since FP3 in Australia, where Ricciardo languished down in fifteenth place, over three seconds off the pace of the Mercedes. Ricciardo was just under a second slower than session leader Nico Rosberg.
However, Russian new boy to the Big Bull’s had a tortuous session. After a huge lock up at turn fifteen that saw off a set of tyres, Kvyat told the team: “We’ve made a step back…. Is there a chance to come back on the set-up and give it another go?”
Kvyat finished over 2 seconds behind Nico Rosberg and was over a second slower than his team mate.
Max Verstappen had problems mid way through the session: “I’ve got a lot of vibrations on the tyres now… I have so much understeer in the car it’s unbelievable.”
Though both he and Carlos Sainz put in solid performances, which saw them ranked just behind Big Bull team leader Daniel Ricciardo.
The Sauber powered Ferrari is slipping back from the early form they showed in Australia. Ericsson managed to finish ahead of both the Mercedes powered Lotus and Force India teams, but Felipe Nasr had handling problems which saw the Swiss team’s mechanics examining the floor of his car.
The Manor team completed just 15 laps between both drivers and Robert Merhi was off in the gravel twice at turn 9, though he recovered unassisted to bring the car back to the pits.
This circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton, though his troubles in this session may mean he hasn’t had enough time on track to find a setup which will see off Nico Rosberg in the battle for pole.
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:40.590||0.900||19|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:40.601||0.911||19|
|9||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:40.989||1.299||18|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1:41.776||2.086||14|
|14||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:41.804||2.114||15|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:42.100||2.410||14|