McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was fastest in practice in Malaysia as Mercedes power locked out the first four positions.
Hamilton, who took pole position in last week’s season-opening race in Australia, established himself as the favorite to repeat the feat here Saturday by setting a time that was a third of a second quicker than Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and McLaren teammate Jenson Button in the afternoon session.
Despite concerns from rival teams, officials have raised no objections to Mercedes’ “W-duct” rear wing which cleverly channels air-flow to cut resistance on the nose when the Drag Reduction System (DRS) overtaking aid is engaged.
The best of the rest was Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso, whilst with a new and seemingly improved front wing, Fernando Alonso elevated his Ferrari up to fifth, 0.719secs off the pace.
As for the Red Bulls, they appear to be struggling as Mark Webber was down in seventh and Vettel 10th, the latter 1.230secs down.
Vettel complained over the team radio that his car was “undriveable” in the afternoon, when he was 10th fastest and team-mate Mark Webber seventh.
Ferrari looked uncompetitive in the morning session, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso 13th and 15th fastest.