F1 practice times: Max Verstappen turns 19, then zips along ‘looking strong’ for Red Bull

Max Verstappen was fifth-fastest in second practice on Friday, his 19th birthday, and said he hoped to pick up enough pace to catch the Ferraris in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Ahmad Yusni / EPA / September 30, 2016
Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Ahmad Yusni / EPA / September 30, 2016

Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix Practice 1 & 2 times

P2: 1 Hamilton 1:34.944; 2 Rosberg +0.233; 3 Vettel +0.661; 4 Raikkonen +0.898; 5 Verstappen +1.093; 6 Perez +1.340; 7 Alonso +1.352; 8 Ricciardo +1.393; 9 Hulkenberg +1.446; 10 Button +1.771; 11 Sainz Jr +1.892; 12 Palmer +1.996; 13 Bottas +2.072; 14 Gutierrez +2.104; 15 Massa +2.166; 16 Kvyat +2.353; 17 Ericsson +2.505; 18 Nasr +2.603; 19 Magnussen +2.720; 20 Grosjean +2.845; 21 Wehrlein +2.934; 22 Ocon +3.046

P1: 1 Rosberg 1:35.227; 2 Hamilton +0.494; 3 Raikkonen +1.088; 4 Vettel +1.104; 5 Alonso +1.283; 6 Ricciardo +1.526; 7 Verstappen +1.746; 8 Hulkenberg +2.286; 9 Perez +2.374; 10 Button +2.386; 11 Kvyat +2.620; 12 Bottas +2.634; 13 Grosjean +2.659; 14 Gutierrez +2.694; 15 Sainz Jr +2.828; 16 Nasr +2.957; 17 Ericsson +3.086; 18 Massa +3.112; 19 Palmer +3.921; 20 Ocon +4.809; 21 Wehrlein +5.400; DNF Magnussen

// Teenager Max Verstappen blew out the candles on his 19th birthday cake Friday, calmly zipped up his overalls and propelled his Red Bull to fifth fastest in practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

“Formula One is where I always want to be so it’s nice to spend my birthday here,” said the youngest ever Formula One points scorer.

He then revealed he would be treating himself to a slice of that cake. “I can enjoy some birthday cake because it’s so hot at Sepang I’ll lose the kilos anyway,” he told reporters, smiling.

The youngster preferred to talk about his practice performance, which he said was “fun”, rather than his advancing years. “Both sessions were pretty good,” he said.

“The first practice you just had to build up to it, especially with the new tarmac, you have to get to grips with the car.

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“I enjoyed the new surface, it seemed to have quite a bit more grip. Before, in Malaysia, we seemed to struggle with traction but the changes they have made here appear to have helped. I also think it is a lot more fun to drive.”

The dominant Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were quickest in both sessions but Verstappen was just a few tenths of a second behind the two Ferraris, and was especially pleased with his long runs.

“Our short runs need to get a bit better but the long runs are looking strong,” said the Dutchman. “The pace on the soft tyre felt decent, I feel like that tyre has potential on a long run and it allowed me to throw the car into the corners like I wanted to.

“It’s hard to tell where other drivers are on the first day but Sebastian (Vettel) looks strong, so we need to improve our short run in order to be competitive.”

Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo was only eighth in Friday’s second practice, behind the Force India of Sergio Perez and the McLaren of Fernando Alonso.

But he believes Red Bull can cut the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes in qualifying on Saturday.

“Mercedes we don’t have to explain, as we knew they would be quick, and I thought Ferrari would be a bit quicker here,” said Ricciardo. “I think, all going well, we can get closer to that.”

*Agence France-Presse

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Published: September 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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