Max Verstappen headed a Red Bull Racing 1-2 in Malaysia’s shortened opening free practice session which was conducted on a wet to dry track.
F1 officials delayed the start of the session by 30 minutes due to persistent rain showers. Conditions eventually improved and after a few exploratory laps from the Safety Car, teams were given the green light.
Fernando Alonso was the first driver to venture out, his McLaren equipped with the ‘Halo’ cockpit safety device.
Red Bull Racing took their time before sending out Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie was keen to evaluate his gearbox for any damage after an issue in Singapore almost put him out of the race.
A series of fastest sector times and an outright fastest lap quickly dissipated any fears however.
As everyone came to grips with the wet track, Sebastian Vettel locked his brakes and slid wide over the gravel, but without any damage.
The bulls, led by Verstappen, charged ahead and topped an FP session for the fourth consecutive time although one would not read much into such early form.
Verstappen clocked in with a 1:48.962, beating his team mate by 0.757s with both men taking full advantage of the efficient downforce of their RB13.
Alonso was a surprising third, pulling out a brilliant lap in the closing minutes of the session. His performance also put him nine spots and three seconds ahead of fellow McLaren team mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebatsian Vettel were fourth and fifth while arch rivals Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were P6 and P7 respectively as the pair worked on set-up without extracting the most from their W08 Silver Arrows.
Among the FP1 rookie group, Pierre Gasly put in an impressive performance for his debut with Toro Rosso, keeping everything together and ending the session P9 while fellow junior bull Sean Gelael was over two seconds adrift.
Renault’s Sergey Sirotkin, who was deputising for Nico Hulkenberg, was the second best debutant, clocking in P10 after completing 10 laps with just a small inconsequential mishap at Turn 2.
Charles Leclerc, Sauber’s new recruit, also acquitted himself well, avoiding any costly mistakes to conclude his weekend outing P16.