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Flying Vettel puts pressure on Hamilton

Sepang, Malaysia: Sebastian Vettel smashed the all-time Sepang lap record as Ferrari put the pressure on Lewis Hamilton before a track fault brought an early halt to Malaysian Grand Prix practice on Friday.

Vettel clocked 1: 31.261sec around the 5.543km circuit on his qualifying simulation run in the second session to smash the old record of 1:32.50 set by Fernando Alonso in 2005.

Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was second, six-tenths of a second adrift.

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were third and fourth on a frustrating day for Mercedes' championship leader, Hamilton who was only sixth fastest with Valtteri Bottas seventh.

Hamilton had been on just his 10th lap of the afternoon when he took too much speed into turn eight, resulting in a sideways excursion into the gravel and a wrecked set of soft tyres.

Hamilton did manage to avoid beaching the car and was able to limp back to the pits, where his mechanics removed the nose and started making frantic changes to the set-up.

When he did re-emerge with 40 minutes of the session remaining his car appeared still to be handling erratically, and his first timed lap was fully 1.4 seconds down on Vettel.

Then he suffered the embarrassment of being overtaken by the immensely improved McLaren of Alonso, who was enjoying his best practice of the season in fifth on the timing sheets.

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