Rosberg on top in final practice

Published: Saturday 28th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Nico Rosberg reclaimed top spot on the timesheet from Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Despite a power unit inlet system issue that sidelined Hamilton for virtually all of the first session on Friday, and 38 minutes of the 90 of FP2, the reigning champion still managed to set the pace.

Hamilton, however, noted the reduced track time at the Sepang International Circuit meant he was “heavily compromised” going into the weekend.

That appeared to materialise in the final hour-long free outing as he complained of brake issues and finished the run 0.184secs adrift of Rosberg.

Rosberg set a time of one minute 39.690secs, only a tenth of a second quicker than Hamilton’s best lap from Friday, with the 30-year-old just dipping under 100 seconds for the 5.543km.

After finishing second best in both Friday sessions, Kimi Raikkonen was forced to settle for third fastest, with the Finn 0.555secs off the pace.

Raikkonen’s early laps were also compromised by a left-rear puncture that confined him to the garage for a spell due to a lack of rubber.

Ferrari at least appear to have edged closer to Mercedes after the latter thoroughly dominated the opening race in Australia a fortnight ago, but it is clear there remains work to do.

Raikkonen had team-mate and four-times champion Sebastian Vettel in close attendance, with the German two hundredths of a second further back.

Next up were the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, the latter now recovered from a back problem sustained in qualifying at Melbourne’s Albert Park and that ultimately ruled him out of the race.

The duo were split by just 0.015secs, but found themselves two tenths of a second down on Ferrari’s drivers.

Red Bull, despite their complaints about power-unit supplier Renault of late, also appear to have made strides as Daniel Ricciardo found himself nine tenths of a second behind Rosberg.

Toro Rosso’s young guns in 20-year-old Carlos Sainz Jr and 17-year-old Max Verstappen were eighth and ninth, with Marcus Ericcson in the top 10 in his Sauber, but 1.5secs down.

Fernando Alonso offered up hope McLaren may make it out of the first qualifying session, with the double world champion 15th and 2.3secs adrift of Rosberg.

A similar gap in qualifying would suggest McLaren and new power-unit supplier Honda are taking steps to address their early woes.

Jenson Button, however, was down in 18th and just over three tenths of a second behind Alonso.

Unsurprisingly, at the rear were Manor duo Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, with the gap between the former and fellow Briton Button a cavernous 4.3secs.

It is likely, on this evidence, the duo will finish outside the 107 per cent rule in qualifying, and then it will be down to the discretion of the stewards as to whether they are allowed to compete.

Published: Saturday 28th March 2015 by The News Editor

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