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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Verstappen value to shine in the rain

Birthday boy can celebrate in style

Red Bul's Max Verstappen turns 20 on Saturday
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Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying
Channel 4 & Sky Sports F1, 10am Saturday

It was advantage Ferrari after the first day of Malaysian Grand Prix practice but bookmakers are keeping faith in championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes ace was 1.4 seconds off the pace set by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the later session and the Englishman complained of a lack of balance as he headed his teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.04 seconds. But Hamilton remains favourite in the qualifying and race markets.

The Silver Arrows rarely show their true pace before the latter stages of qualifying, so it would be dangerous to write off Mercedes just yet.

The morning session was run on a wet track and Red Bull set the pace with Max Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.

A day of thunderstorms is forecast and while qualifying, set for 5pm local time, should miss the worst of the weather, the track may well still be wet.

Verstappen has repeatedly shone in inclement weather, most recently when qualifying second at Monza before grid penalties dropped him to 13th.

While Sepang isn't an ideal track for the Dutchman's Red Bull machine, it should suit the car a lot better than Monza, particularly in slippery conditions.

Ferrari struggled to get temperature into their tyres in the wet Italian qualifying session, and if Mercedes' struggles are genuine Verstappen, who turns 20 on Saturday, could celebrate with a first career pole position.

M Verstappen fastest qualifier
1pt each-way 16-1 general

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Verstappen has repeatedly impressed in inclement weather, most recently when qualifying second at Monza
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