This is up a day earlier than usual due to the early nature of the events this weekend (third practice is 7-8am and I’m not sure I’d be able to listen that. I’d be up, but have other things to do that early). Qualifying is at 10am, and I think the race starts at 8am.
Alonso has a 30 place grid penalty due to having a new engine.
There’s been confirmation that, after a safety car start in the wet, races in 2017 will be restarted off the line (ie they’ll line up on the grid then start). I think this is a backward step because the safety car will be forced to stay out for longer than is currently the case. The race organisers cannot risk heavy spray at the start because cars could easily be unsighted and ram into one another, causing carnage. So, a wet safety car at the start would see it out for longer.
If it’s too wet to race, don’t race. If it’s dry enough, let them race. The wet tyre is hardly ever used in race conditions nowadays.
Anyway, onto Malaysia. A race that has been set back in the calendar after a decade or so when the F1 bigwigs suddenly decided holding it in monsoon season might not be terribly clever. Wide track, run off, even with the monsoon-overlapping calendar slot of previous years it’s been very unlikely to see a safety car. The 2009 deluge looms large in public imagination and likely means No Safety Car is too long [weather forecast permitting -update, rain entirely possible, so no bet this year].
In first practice, Rosberg was half a second up on Hamilton, who was a similar margin ahead of Raikkonen. The Finn was a tiny margin faster than Vettel, who was followed by Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Button.
Second practice had Hamilton fastest by two-tenths over Rosberg, with Vettel half a second down the road (a quarter of a second up on Raikkonen). Behind the Ferraris came Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Button.
Right now, McLaren are looking better than I expected, and Force India are also seeming to be in good shape. Ferrari out-pacing Red Bull was entirely expected, as was Mercedes dominance (after the closer-than-usual race in Singapore).
No bets on qualifying for me. Very close between the Mercedes and hard to see anyone else coming near. I did see Alonso at 5 to reach Q3, but there was only a tiny sum available, so can’t tip it [plus he has that grid penalty so won't put much effort into qualifying].
I did consider the pole margin market, which isn’t one of my usual ones, but the timing splits were a bit awkward.
Anyway, I anticipate a silver front row, scarlet second row, and a nice qualifying result for Force India and McLaren.
Rain is possible for both qualifying and the race.