Mercedes AMG F1 driver Nico Rosberg set the pace in the second free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen second fastest just as he was in the opening practice session behind Rosberg's teammate Lewis Hamilton who was fourth fastest in second practice.
Trailing Rosberg and Raikkonen was defending four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing. With Red Bull consistently making cars that handle well on high speed corners, Vettel was rapid through the middle sector of the 5.543 km Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur.
That and far improved reliability over the opening round of the season saw him post times close to the leaders although it is suspected that the teams are not yet using full power in order to save their power units for the qualifying session on Saturday.
The session saw many drivers struggle with oversteer as a result of reduced downforce (particularly at the rear with the banning of exhaust blown diffusers) and the increased torque of the new F1 power units. Many drivers even struggled under braking on both the hard and medium compound tyres.
The Lotus F1 team continued to be the team to consistently struggle with reliability issues as both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean were forced to limit their running and Maldonado was among the two drivers who failed to set a time.
The harder Pirelli tyre compounds may yet come into play on raceday as Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari showed varying levels of time drops over the course of their race simulations that were run towards the end of the 90 minute practice session.
The F1 event is being held in the wake of news of the Malaysian Airlines tragedy that saw 239 people lose their lives when Flight 730 crashed into the Indian Ocean on March 8.
Ferrari were among the teams that are carrying messages of condolence to the relatives and friends of the victims and it was announced that there will be a one-minute silence observed on raceday as well.
F1 MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX SECOND PRACTICE SESSION CLASSIFICATION
1) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:39.909
2) Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:39.944
3) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) 1:39.970
4) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:40.051
5) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1:40.103
6) Felipe Massa (Williams-Mercedes) 1:40.112
7) Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull-Renault) 1:40.276
8) Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:40.628
9) Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Mercedes) 1:40.638
10) Nico Hulkenberg (Force India-Mercedes) 1:40.691
11) Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso-Renault) 1:40.777
12) Kevin Magnussen (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:41.014
13) Adrian Sutil (Sauber-Ferrari) 1:41.257
14) Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso-Renault) 1:41.325
15) Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber-Ferrari) 1:41.407
16) Sergio Perez (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:41.671
17) Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault) 1:42.531
18) Max Chilton (Marussia-Ferrari) 1:43.638
19) Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Ferrari) 1:43.752
20) Marcus Ericsson (Caterham-Renault) 1:45.703
Kamui Kobayashi (Caterham-Renault) NO TIME
Pastor Maldonado (Lotus-Renault) NO TIME