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Verstappen tops wet opening Malaysia F1 practice after delay

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Max Verstappen headed up a one-two finish for Red Bull in first practice for Formula 1’s Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday at Sepang following a delayed start to running due to rain.

A heavy shower around 20 minutes before the start of the session forced race control to delay the start of FP1 by half an hour before conditions improved, with the rain eventually subsiding enough to allow running to take place on intermediate tires.

Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo traded fastest times throughout the session, ultimately finishing P1 and P2 respectively in the final classification.

Verstappen’s best time of 1:48.962 saw him finish seven-tenths of a second clear of Ricciardo at the top of the timesheets, with Fernando Alonso ending FP1 as the best of the rest for McLaren in P3, 1.6 seconds off the fastest lap.

Ferrari left it late to try and beat Verstappen’s lap, ultimately taking P4 and P5 with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, with nearest-rival Mercedes ending the session sixth and seventh through Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Lance Stroll wound up eighth for Williams ahead of Pierre Gasly, who took ninth for Toro Rosso in his first session as a grand prix driver ahead of his debut on Sunday. Renault reserve Sergey Sirotkin rounded out the top 10.

FP2 for the Malaysian Grand Prix kicks off at 3am ET on Friday.

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.