MALAYSIA FRIDAY CATCH-UP AND GOSSIP

1y ago

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PROBLEMS FOR MERCEDES

Still think the world championship is all over?

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes endured a torrid Friday practice at Sepang with both the title leader and team-mate Valtteri Bottas slithering off track and struggling in the timesheets. "There is a gremlin in the car," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky F1 before adding: "It is certainly one of the worst Fridays I can remember."

In contrast, Ferrari were supreme and comfortable throughout. "Mercedes will be very worried," concluded Sky F1's Paul di Resta. A long night awaits in the Silver Arrows garage...

A VERY STRANGE ACCIDENT

Crashes in F1 are hardly irregular. But Romain Grosjean's high-speed hit into the barriers was especially alarming for being track-triggered after a broken drain cover punctured his Haas. The incident - "Exceptionally dangerous" in the words of Sky F1's David Croft - brought Practice Two to an early close.

CONFIRMATION OF WILLIAMS' INTEREST IN ROBERT KUBICA

While it's still unclear if Kubica will test privately for Williams before the end of the season, the team's interest in the Pole is now official. "Robert is definitely a very interesting opportunity," Grove technical chief Paddy Lowe told Sky F1 midway through the rain delay.

But obstacles - and significant ones at that - still remain: The team's understandable desire to evaluate Kubica's ability and fitness, five years after he suffered career-changing injuries, is repotedly complicated by their team programme being funded by Lawrence Stroll (and therefore devoted to Lance).

Felipe Massa also sounds in no mood to give up his seat without a fight. Throw in the candidature of Paul di Resta and it's clear that Nico Rosberg, recently appointed Kubica's manager, has his work cut out to finalise what would be one of the most remarkable comebacks in motorsport history.

NOT A LOT IN PRACTICE ONE

Heavy rain reduced the session from 90 minutes to 60 and the action which followed was substantially reduced. The fastest laps were set on intermediates while the field completed less than 200 laps between them. World championship leader Hamilton didn't appear until the final half hour while Toro Rosso newbie Gasly set the most amount of laps - a tally of 14 which, on any other day, would be considered meagre.

A DECENT START FOR CHARLES LECLERC

Practice One's shrivelling was particularly bad news for Sean Gelael, Sergey Sirotkin, Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc, the Friday Practice One testers all of whom found their opportunity to impress - for Toro Rosso, Renault, Haas and Sauber respectively - severely constricted.

But there was still just enough time and scope for Sauber newcomer Leclerc to make a positive impression as the runaway GP2 leader lapped three tenths quicker than Pascal Wehrlein in his first outing in the car.

A VERY INTERESTING TEAM BOSSES' MEETING

Well, we assume it was interesting (even if Paddy Lowe doesn't look particularly enamored with proceedings in our picture). But as outsiders, it was certainly interesting to spot the team bosses of Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and Mercedes come together for a hastily-convened meeting at Williams immediately after Practice One. When the quartet were later joined by their counterparts at McLaren and Force India, it meant that the teams' six representatives on the Strategy Group were all in attendance. It won't be long before the first whispers about what was on the agenda are heard along the paddock grapevine - the first suggestion is that a proposal of a £150m budget cap was being discussed…

FIA CHIEF OFF TO RENAULT?

Another topic surely up for discussion for teams very soon is that of FIA technical chief Marcin Budkowski, who is on gardening leave for three months after handing in his resignation. Once that leave ends, he is supposedly free to join another F1 team with reports in Germany claiming Renault have agreed to hire the aerodynamicist. Given he has been in a "privileged position" of being privy to development "secrets", Christian Horner says teams would strongly oppose Budkowski joining a rival team so soon after his FIA role.

"We'd take major issue with that if he does end up at another team," the Red Bull boss said. "A three months notice period and for him to then turn up in a competitor team is entirely inappropriate. It's vital the teams have faith in the governing body and they can share their technical secrets, in confidence that information doesn't end up with a rival team."

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