SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) — Mercedes confirmed it was the team to beat at the Malaysian Grand Prix by setting the fastest times in both of Friday's practice sessions, although its Formula One rivals were closer than expected.
Nico Rosberg, coming off his win at the season-opening race in Australia, was fastest in the second session and overall with a time of 1 minute, 39.909 seconds around the Sepang International Circuit, exceeding Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by three-hundredths of a second.
Raikkonen, who struggled in Melbourne, was also second fastest in the morning session behind Rosberg's Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton.
Although Mercedes was expected to dominate the early races of the season, and did so in Australia, the top six cars on Friday afternoon were separated by just two-tenths of a second, indicating a competitive race on Sunday.
"We are still having some small issues and therefore we were not able to maximize everything today," Rosberg said. "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."
Defending four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel overcame some technical issues that restricted his running in the morning session and was an impressive third fastest in the afternoon, while his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was seventh.
The bad news for Vettel was that he needed to change his computer power supply unit, which alternates the power source between the engine, the turbo and battery-stored energy. That means he is onto his third of the season, with a limit of five all year before penalties kick in.
"Friday timings are not the most important in the world, but to be out there in the range with the other guys was a decent day," Vettel said.
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