SEPANG, Malaysia — Mercedes continued to set the pace in the second free practice session Friday at Sepang Int’l Circuit, but it was a close-run battle among the German manufacturer, Ferrari and Red Bull.
This time it was Nico Rosberg ahead, after Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the opening session, but the German’s one minute and 39.909-second lap on Pirelli’s medium tire was a mere 0.035 seconds faster than Kimi Raikkonen’s one minute and 39.944-second lap and 0.61 seconds better than Sebastian Vettel.
“It was crazy conditions out there,” Rosberg said. “In the very, very warm temperatures, it’s a huge challenge to get everything right. The cars are on the edge and the tire degradation was higher than expected today – we are sliding a bit more this year, perhaps because of the reduced downforce levels. We are still having some small issues and therefore we were not able to maximize everything today. The quickest teams seem to be closer together than in Australia, so we still have work to do overnight to improve our level of performance.”
Hamilton was fourth as the fastest 11 cars were bracketed within one second.
As usual, teams ran the hard tire initially and then worked on the medium. Some, especially McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, found their cars oversteering initially on the softer compound, as the track continued to rubber in. Later, teams focused on longer race-simulation runs.
Fernando Alonso was fifth in his Ferrari, as Felipe Massa took his oversteering Williams to sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.