Malaysia GP: Verstappen leads Ricciardo in rain-hit Practice 1

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Max Verstappen and Red Bull made a fast start to the final Malaysian Grand Prix weekend as they led a rain-hit Practice 1 at Sepang on Friday.

A tropical downpour before the start of the session meant the green light was delayed by 30 minutes as the Safety Car completed a number of laps to test track conditions but, once the rain eased, the hot temperatures saw much of the standing water evaporate off the surface.

With an hour of running available most completed initial installation laps on the full wet tyres to get a first feel for the level of grip, with only a limited number of sets and more rain likely, however, that would be all they would do.

Instead, they waited a little longer to take advantage of the extra set of intermediates that are given in a wet first practice before completing any meaningful runs and Red Bull would quickly establish themselves at the front.

Initially, it would be Verstappen and then Ricciardo who would set the pace before the Dutchman stayed out a little longer in the drying conditions and post a 1:48.962s to take P1 by over six-tenths of a second from his teammate.

They would be in a class of their own, however, as Fernando Alonso was almost a nine-tenths further behind in third, despite also leaving it late to set his best time in the McLaren. The Spaniard would also be the only driver to test the Halo on his first run.

Ferrari and Mercedes eased their way into the weekend, limiting laps and not pushing as Kimi Raikkonen led Sebastian Vettel in fourth and fifth with Lewis Hamilton half a second clear of Valtteri Bottas in sixth and seventh respectively.

Vettel would be one of a number of drivers to have minor excursions off the track at Turn 9 during the session.

Three unexpected names completed the top 10 as Lance Stroll once again showed off his prowess in the wet in eighth for Williams, Pierre Gasly built speed with every lap as the Frenchman improved to ninth in his first outing with Toro Rosso and Sergey Sirotkin outpaced Jolyon Palmer to claim 10th in the Renault.

The Briton would only be a tenth behind the Russian in 11th with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne 12th in the second McLaren. The two Force Indias also played it conservatively with Esteban Ocon 13th and Sergio Perez 15th. In between the two 'pink panthers' was Sean Gelael, as the Indonesian F2 driver completed another Practice 1 outing with Toro Rosso.

On a morning where the young drivers impressed, Charles Leclerc would be four-tenths clear of Pascal Wehrlein in the Monegasque's first appearance with Sauber and 1.1 seconds faster than Ferrari third driver and rival for a 2018 seat Antonio Giovinazzi, as the Italian drove for Haas.

The only driver who failed to set a time in the session was Felipe Massa as his Williams suffered from a hydraulics problem. The Brazilian will be hoping the wet conditions either remain in the afternoon or it stays dry for the rest of the weekend, making the action in the morning somewhat pointless.