Raikkonen quickest ahead of the rain in FP2

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Kimi Raikkonen managed to set the quickest time during the second Free Practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix before heavy rain hit Sepang with around 45 minutes to go.

The Lotus driver edged out Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa, both of whom finished within one-tenth of Raikkonen, as Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus continue to show good pace at the start of the season.

Rain clouds were forming above the Sepang International Circuit just as the session started, and many of the teams opted to get out early on the dry compounds. The high tire wear experienced in FP1 persisted, with Sebastian Vettel and Max Chilton both flat-spotting their Pirellis.

Soon after Raikkonen went quickest, the rain began to fall, and although some drivers tried to continue on their dry tires, conditions only worsened. Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez all spun before moving onto intermediate tires.

Many of the drivers decided to stay in the pits once the rain came, but some decided to get used to the wet conditions. Thunderstorms are forecast for the rest of the race weekend, meaning that any wet running could be precious to the teams.

The rain did subside towards the end of the session, and although the entire field opted to give the dry tires another run, no-one could better Raikkonen’s time at the top.

Lotus will be pleased to have shown that their Australia pace was no fluke, and Raikkonen will undoubtedly be hoping for a dry race on Sunday in order to maximize the potential of the E21. The results do suggest that Ferrari and Red Bull will be close at the front though, and a sprinkling of rain could bring the likes of Mercedes and Force India into the running.

Free Practice 2 – Classification

1 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:36.569

2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.588 +0.019

3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.661 +0.092

4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.985 +0.416

5 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.026 +0.457

6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.206 +0.637

7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.448 +0.879

8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:37.571 +1.002

9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.574 +1.005

10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.788 +1.219

11 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.838 +1.269

12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.865 +1.296

13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.068 +1.499

14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.645 +2.076

15 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.738 +2.169

16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:38.801 +2.232

17 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:38.904 +2.335

18 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.508 +2.939

19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:39.660 +3.091

20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:40.757 +4.188

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:40.768 +4.199

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:41.438 +4.869

Fernando Alonso confirmed for Toyota LMP1 test in Bahrain

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SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.

Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.

Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.

Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.

“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.

“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”

Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.