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.