Nico Rosberg heads Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes 1-2 in final practice in Malaysia
Silver Arrows over one second clear of the field at Sepang
By Mike Wise at Sepang. Last Updated: 29/03/14 10:13am
Nico Rosberg: Fastest in final practice
Mercedes ended third practice for the Malaysia GP fastest overall with Nico Rosberg edging out Lewis Hamilton at Sepang.
Rosberg lapped the 5.543km track in a time of 1:39.008s, about 0.2s faster than his team-mate but it was the one-second gap to the third-placed Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen that caught the eye.
It suggests that the Silver Arrows are a shoo-in to make the frontrow their own during qualifying later on Saturday and once more confirms the superiority that has been on display since pre-season testing began.
Raikkonen, who struggled with his car during the season-opener in Melbourne, seemed happier on Friday and once more lapped faster than team-mate Fernando Alonso, who ended the session seventh.
Behind the Finn came Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Hulkenberg a promising fifth in his Force India ahead of Daniel Ricciardo's second Red Bull.
The top ten was completed by Williams pair Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas and Force India's Sergio Perez.
Notable absentees from the upper order were McLaren, with Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen failing to set times after sensor problems left their cars unable to deliver power properly.
Both drivers spent most of the session in the pits but even when they were out on track, Button and Magnussen reported a lack of grip, in spite of aerodynamic upgrades introduced this weekend.
In contrast, Lotus enjoyed a more productive session than Friday's with Pastor Maldonado the first driver to set a time and he and Romain Grosjean completing 36 much-needed laps.
Even so, the E22 still appeared a handful under braking with both drivers leaving the track more than once.
Making full use of their power advantage on the long straights in the first and last sectors, Mercedes were also first and second fastest on the hard compound tyre, with Hamilton leading the way by 0.4s earlier on.
He looked set to top Rosberg again after teams switched to the medium tyre during the closing minutes but locked up at Turn 15.
Ferrari changed to options first, with Raikkonen briefly going 0.4s faster than Hamilton's time on hards before Rosberg reduced the benchmark by over a second. Vettel, meanwhile, jumped up to fourth in closing stages but was still 1.3s down.