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Rosberg: New Sepang surface ‘challenging’, ‘really enjoyable to drive’

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Nico Rosberg feels that the resurfaced Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia is “challenging” and “really enjoyable to drive” following Friday’s Formula 1 practice sessions.

The track on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur underwent significant renovations earlier this year ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, removing many of the bumps previously featuring in the track and altering the fastest line for the final corner.

Drivers got their first taste of the revised track on Friday during practice, with Rosberg leading FP1 before finishing second behind Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in FP2.

“The new track surface is really enjoyable to drive. Challenging, but with good grip,” Rosberg reported after the session.

“It’s tough to get the setup right with such an unknown element as new tarmac, but we’re on the right track. Turn 15 is interesting, as you can now try several different lines if you’re attacking the guy in front, so that will be good for overtaking.”

Both Rosberg and Hamilton were able to complete long runs on the hard compound tire in practice, pointing towards a two-stop race on Sunday.

“Looking at the race, even the soft tire held on pretty well out there, so we don’t expect any big surprises,” Rosberg said.

“Strategy-wise we have to run the hard compound, of course, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. I’m looking forward now to qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 5am ET on Saturday.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen takes pole at Brazilian GP

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has taken pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s the second career pole for the Dutch driver, who beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just 0.123 seconds.

Verstappen’s first pole was earlier this season at the Hungarian GP in August.

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes will start from third position. The 2018 winner at Interlagos finished 0.191 seconds back.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Hamilton was fastest in final practice earlier Saturday, 0.026 quicker than Verstappen.

The Brazilian GP on Sunday is the penultimate race of the season. Hamilton secured the season title, his sixth, in the previous race in the U.S.