Rosberg quickest as rain threatens
24 March 2012 – Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg topped final practice in Sepang this afternoon, outpacing Sebastian Vettel by almost half a second with a time of 1:36.877. Mark Webber wound up in third place, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton endured an off-track moment and completed just eight laps as the rain clouds loomed.
After overnight rain, a series of tentative installation laps kicked off the day in Malaysia. There was no meaningful action until Williams driver Bruno Senna started the first slick tyre run of the day, some 20 minutes into the session. However, his team-mate stole the show with one of the most eye-catching performances, topping the timesheets until the late stages of the session. He ultimately finished the afternoon outing in seventh place, but was rapid throughout.
The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber enjoyed a much more constructive time on-track this time out, putting their Friday struggles behind them to finish well up the order in second and third respectively. The Lotus pairing of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean also looked very comfortable in fourth and fifth, despite a fire in the team's hospitality area in the early hours of the morning due to a faulty fridge.
McLaren's start to the day was mixed, with Jenson Button's car seemingly on rails in the high speed corners, while Hamilton lost control halfway through the session at Turn 13 and limited his running to no more than eight laps. With Button sixth and Hamilton ninth, it appears that the Woking squad's Friday dominance has been pegged back, but nothing will be made clear until the chequered flag falls in Q3.
Michael Schumacher and Maldonado split the McLaren duo in seventh and eighth, while Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top ten. Fernando Alonso led Ferrari's currently timid charge in 13th, with team-mate Felipe Massa managing no more than 18th, almost a full second behind the Spaniard. At the back of the field, Vitaly Petrov got one over on fellow Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen, while HRT pairing Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan both managed more than ten laps.
Qualifying starts at 4pm local time (BST +8) and can also be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report