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Vettel fastest in Malaysia FP2 as Grosjean crash ends session early

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Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari a boost amid its ailing Formula 1 title bid by topping second practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Friday at Sepang, leading home teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

After seeing Max Verstappen finish P1 for Red Bull in a wet opening practice on Friday morning in Malaysia, Vettel made the most of the first dry running of the weekend to stamp his authority on proceedings.

Vettel turned in a fastest lap time of 1:31.261, finishing six-tenths of a second clear of Raikkonen in the sister Ferrari SF70H as rival teams Red Bull and Mercedes both struggled to keep up.

Daniel Ricciardo finished third-fastest for Red Bull ahead of Verstappen, while Fernando Alonso was a surprise name to feature in the top five for McLaren.

Mercedes entered the race weekend as the heavy favorite given the fast-flowing nature of the Sepang circuit, only for championship leader Lewis Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas to finish sixth and seventh, over 1.4 seconds off the pace.

Both drivers suffered early off-track excursions as they struggled for grip, with Hamilton spinning his car through the gravel at Turn 8 and Bottas heading off at Turn 11, damaging the underside of his Mercedes car.

The stand-out moment of the session came when a loose drain cover caused significant damage to Romain Grosjean’s Haas car, sending the Frenchman flying off the track and into the barrier at high-speed.

Grosjean was able to walk away unharmed, albeit a little shaken by the incident, with the session immediately being red flagged.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting ventured out onto the track to inspect the kerb where the drain cover had been kicked up, before quickly taking the decision to not restart the session due to the damage caused.

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.