Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets in the final practice session ahead of what could be a wet qualifying session for the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
With much of the attention this weekend focussed on Lewis Hamilton and McLaren for their disqualification in last week’s Australian Grand Prix, it was over to Rosberg and Red Bull’s Mark Webber to remind fans of the new pecking order shaping the sport, while Ferrari also showed improvement.
Against the backdrop of overcast conditions – which risk developing into thundery showers for qualifying – Brawn GP quickly reasserted their dominance with Jenson Button leading teammate Rubens Barrichello at the top of the timesheets on a 1:38.601.
Button’s time was quickly beaten by Rosberg and Webber while Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen also briefly held the top spot for Ferrari showing improvement for the Scuderia.
BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld was the first driver on the softer compound tyres going quickest on a 1:37.026, but that was quickly beaten by Jenson Button, also on the soft tyres, before a flurry of activity in the last few minutes saw the times tumble at the top.
Nico Rosberg vaulted into P1 on a 1:35.940 with Mark Webber lapping to within a tenth of the German to go second quickest ahead of Felipe Massa and the Toyota’s of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock.
Sebastian Vettel paced seventh quickest for Red Bull Racing ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who seemed altogether more comfortable with the handling of his Ferrari F60.
The Brawn pairing eventually wound up in ninth and tenth but have yet to show their true pace.
McLaren lived up to their prediction that they would struggle at the “aero”-favouring Sepang International Circuit. Lewis Hamilton languished at the bottom of the timesheets in the early stages before improving on the softer tyres. He would up twelfth quickest while the best teamamte Heikki Kovalainen could manage was thirteenth.
1. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:35.940 19
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:36.048 + 0.108 13
3. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:36.089 + 0.149 13
4. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:36.132 + 0.192 21
5. Glock Toyota (B) 1:36.189 + 0.249 22
6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:36.194 + 0.254 14
7. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:36.322 + 0.382 14
8. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:36.325 + 0.385 18
9. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:36.519 + 0.579 19
10. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:36.541 + 0.601 17
11. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:36.563 + 0.623 18
12. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:36.657 + 0.717 15
13. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:36.742 + 0.802 13
14. Alonso Renault (B) 1:37.004 + 1.064 16
15. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:37.026 + 1.086 18
16. Piquet Renault (B) 1:37.032 + 1.092 18
17. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:37.118 + 1.178 18
18. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:37.282 + 1.342 17
19. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:37.322 + 1.382 16
20. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:37.398 + 1.458 19