• Malaysian Grand Prix - FP3

Rosberg quickest as Mercedes shows pace

ESPNF1 Staff
March 24, 2012
Nico Rosberg was 0.443s quicker than anyone else © Getty Images

Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the final free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes showed its strength at Sepang.

The 'F-duct' DRS system has been the centre of controversy among some teams, but the FIA has twice stated it is legal and Rosberg made the most of the innovation on the long Sepang straights to set the fastest time of 1:36.877. He was nearly half a second quicker than Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull as the rest of the front-runners were extremely closely matched.

Just 0.135 seconds separated Vettel in second from Pastor Maldonado in seventh place, with the Williams raising a few eyebrows when topping the timesheets for a spell having set that time on the hard compound tyres. Mark Webber was third just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean as Lotus showed no ill-effects from the fire which hit its hospitality building overnight.

Jenson Button was sixth fastest for McLaren but his team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a less smooth session. On his first flying lap Hamilton ran wide at turn 13th after losing the rear end at high speed and had to recover the car from the gravel to get back to the pits. It meant he was only able to complete eight laps in the session but did still set the ninth fastest time on medium tyres.

Only Bruno Senna in 11th place managed to break the 20-lap barrier as most of the drivers spent the first 25 minutes of the hour-long session in the garage. A light shower at lunchtime had left the circuit surface damp and all installation laps were completed on intermediate tyres before the teams waited for the track to dry out fully.

Ferrari remained off the pace as Fernando Alonso was only 13th quickest and Felipe Massa 18th, with Vitaly Petrov's Caterham within half a second. None of the teams will feel comfortable ahead of qualifying, however, as the threat of rain ensures the session could become a lottery if the track is wet.