Vettel quickest in final practice for Malaysian GP

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Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel looks set to be in the running for pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix after finishing quickest in the final free practice session.

The Red Bull driver posted a time of 1:36.435, edging out a charging Lewis Hamilton at the top after the Briton led for most of the session. Also in close contention were Adrian Sutil and Mark Webber, both of whom finished within two-tenths of Vettel’s time.

Although heavy rain had been forecast, Free Practice 3 saw the track basking in hot and sunny conditions, allowing the teams to make the most of the dry track ahead of qualifying later. Most of the drivers opted to focus on their longer runs on the harder tire before switching to the medium compound later on in the session. With around five minutes to go, Vettel posted the quickest time to take P1 from Hamilton.

Red Bull and Mercedes will be very pleased with the result, as will Force India, who finished 3rd and 6th ahead of both Ferrari and McLaren. Qualifying could see a dramatic change in the running order, but with the top ten separated by less than one second, it appears the battle for pole position is wide open.

Malaysian GP – Free Practice 3 Classification

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.435

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.568 +0.133

3 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.588 +0.153

4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.613 +0.178

5 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:36.806 +0.371

6 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:36.807 +0.372

7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.822 +0.387

8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.946 +0.511

9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.949 +0.514

10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.302 +0.867

11 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.359 +0.924

12 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.538 +1.103

13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.685 +1.250

14 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.690 +1.255

15 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:37.936 +1.501

16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.294 +1.859

17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.376 +1.941

18 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:38.425 +1.990

19 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:38.995 +2.560

20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.717 +3.282

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:40.209 +3.774

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.495 +4.060

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.