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Nico Rosberg’s hopes of backing up his win in Australia with further success in second grand prix of the season in Malaysia received a boost after German was quickest in Friday’s practice session.
Whilst a number of his rivals struggled with technical issues, Rosberg clocked a best time of one minute, 39.909 seconds in the second session at a steamy, slippery Sepang circuit, where track temperatures reached 50 C.
Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton held the fastest time in the opening session, but grip issues hampered his efforts second time around and he had to settle for a fourth-best time of 1.40.051.
Kimi Raikkonen was only a fraction behind Rosberg in second with reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel third fastest after clocking a best time of 1:39.970 seconds.
Lotus, meanwhile, had a shocker with both drivers encountering problems in practice. With smoke bellowing out of his car, Pastor Maldonado did not even make it out for the second session and team-mate Romain Grosjean was unable to set a time on either run.
Meanwhile, 2008 world champion Hamilton, who was forced to retire early in Australia, reckons the extreme heat and humidity at the Sepang circuit will have a crucial part to play in determining the winner of Sunday’s race.
“This is the most extreme track for us,” he said. “Everyone is going to open up their cooling, everyone is going to be on the limit, and when you open up the cooling you lose performance.
“The engine is going to be on hardcore limit this weekend, and it’s going to be a real test of durability.
“I hope we’re at the top, and as I’ve not won here before I really hope I can do that, and that’s what I’m here to do.”