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So far, so good for Vettel and Ferrari in Malaysia F1 practice

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Sebastian Vettel took confidence from Ferrari’s impressive showing in Friday’s Formula 1 practice running for the Malaysian Grand Prix, having finished as the fastest driver in the second session.

Vettel posted a new track record of 1:31.261 in FP2 to finish six-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, stamping his authority on proceedings early.

At a track Mercedes was expected to dominate at, title rival Lewis Hamilton struggled to sixth place overall in FP2, finishing over 1.4 seconds behind Vettel.

“This morning we had a bit of mixed conditions and there was not so much running. This afternoon it was better and the cars seemed to be quite OK right from the beginning of the session,” Vettel said.

“Then we tried something new, but unfortunately we couldn’t complete our program as we had wished to, because of the red flag.

“We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It’s only Friday, usually the day when you spend time trying various things on the car.

“We would have liked to drive a little bit more, but overall it was a decent afternoon. We have a good car and it’s up to us to make it work in all conditions.”

Raikkonen was also frustrated by the loss of track time due to rain in FP1 and a late red flag in FP2 following a crash for Romain Grosjean, but was happy with how the day went.

“Today’s been OK and everything ran smoothly. In the morning we had wet conditions and only managed a few laps, and in the afternoon the session was cut short because of the issue with the track,” Raikkonen said.

“It’s a pity that we couldn’t use the whole session and do more timed laps, because for sure we could have further improved. But the car was feeling good.

“I made some mistakes on a new set of tires but apart from that it was a pretty straightforward day. Lap times don’t mean much today, as obviously we don’t know what everybody else was doing.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.