Sepang (Malaysia): Nico Rosberg kept Mercedes on top at the end of yesterday’s practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, the German setting the quickest time in a close-run afternoon session.
Nico Rosberg during the practice session yesterday. Pic/AFP.
Rosberg, winner of the last race in Australia, lapped the 5.543 kilometer Sepang circuit in one minute 39.909 seconds narrowly edging out Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by six hundredths of a second with Red Bull’s reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel a further three-hundredths of a second adrift in third.
Lewis Hamilton, who had topped the morning session, ended the day fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa was the first of the Williams cars in sixth, ahead of the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas in the sister Williams, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top-ten.
Yesterday’s times, with the top five covered by less than two-tenths of a second, indicate that the racing could be closer this weekend, with Ferrari and Red Bull in the mix, though it’s difficult to accurately gauge the formbook based on yesterday practice with each team focusing on its own programme.
Several teams suffered reliability issues as ambient temperatures climbed into their thirties while track temperatures peaked at over 50 degrees. Renault-powered Lotus, in particular, continued to struggle with Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean logging the least mileage of the day.
Several drivers also had off track moments as the lower amount of downforce this year combined with a green track and the hot temperatures made the cars harder to control.