Final practice - Rosberg flies for Mercedes 24 Mar 2012
Nico Rosberg gave Mercedes a turn at the top of the times when he dominated the end of FP3 in Sepang this afternoon. The young German was the only runner below 1m 37s with a lap of 1m 36.877s which was 0.443s clear of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.
There was a 12 minute hiatus at the start of the session as teams waited for Turn 9 in particular to dry out after a brief rain shower, and there was the usual toing and froing on the hard Pirellis before the times really started to fall in the final quarter hour as drivers switched to the mediums.
Vettel lapped in 1m 37.320s to depose team mate Mark Webber on 1m 37.338s, and they were fastest up until Rosberg's strong run.
Behind them, Kimi Raikkonen pipped Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean with 1m 37.356s to 1m 37.382s, leaving Australian Grand Prix winner Jenson Button only sixth on 1m 37.404s in the leading McLaren.
Pastor Maldonado had a spell as the fastest man after switching quite early on to the mediums; he showed Williams' strong pace with 1m 37.455s for seventh ahead of Michael Schumacher in the second Mercedes on 1m 37.663s.
It was an interesting session for McLaren's Lewis Hamilton; he half spun into the Turn 14 gravel on his first flying lap after waiting for conditions to come to him, but made it back to the pits where he sat until the final eight minutes. He then banged in a 1m 37.776s best which at the time was second fastest, and did not try to improve that. He ended up ninth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi who was much happier with his Sauber on his way to 1m 37.977s.
Bruno Senna had a brief spell as fastest man early in the session and finished it 11th on 1m 38.091s in the second Williams, ahead of Sergio Perez's Sauber on 1m 38.178s, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari on 1m 38.246, Nico Hulkenberg's Force India on 1m 38.285s, the Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 38.423s and 1m 38.640s, and Paul di Resta's Force India on 1m 38.794s.
It was another troubled day for Felipe Massa, who took his new Ferrari round in only 1m 39.209s for 18th, then came the Caterhams of Vitaly Petrov on 1m 39.704s and Heikki Kovalainen on 1m 40.189s.
Charles Pic produced the surprise at Marussia by lapping faster than team mate Timo Glock, 1m 41.901s to 1m 42.007s, while there were clear signs of improvement from HRT. Pedro de la Rosa got his F112 within half a second of the Marussias with 1m 42.464s, leaving Narain Karthikeyan 24th on 1m 43.378s.
It was a little bit of an odd session, and some teams may still have been running reasonable fuel loads, but Q1 will finally show the latest pecking order later this afternoon. Right now, the weather forecast is benign.
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