Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix after outpacing the Red Bulls on their option tyre runs. After a quiet first 20 minutes due to pre-session rain, the fast times came thick and fast in the final few minutes as the drivers carried out their qualifying simulations.
They were all trying to beat Pastor Maldonado who had set the fastest lap of the weekend with a quarter of an hour to go. Impressively, the Williams driver set his time on hard tyres and it wasn't until Jenson Button went out on mediums that he was knocked off top spot.
The championship leader clocked a 1:37.404 but he was quickly bumped down the order as both Red Bulls and both Lotus drivers sneaked ahead of him. Mark Webber took P1 temporarily before Sebastian Vettel pipped him by 0.018s with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean slotting in behind, all four in the 1:38.3s bracket.
At this stage, a tenth of a second covered the top six but Rosberg opened up a four-tenth advantage with a 1:36.877, putting Mercedes' highly publicised DRS to good use down the pit straight, setting the fastest first sector of all.
Red Bull and Lotus followed two-by-two behind the German with Button sixth and Maldonado seventh. Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton couldn't find the pace on their option tyre runs for whatever reason and finished eighth and ninth respectively but the Briton was lucky to get any running in at all on medium tyres after a spin on the damp track early on. Hamilton lost control of his McLaren under braking for turn 14 on his first timed lap and was lucky to escape the gravel trap without becoming beached.
Kamui Kobayashi completed the top ten ahead of Bruno Senna and Sergio Perez but you had to look all the way down to 13th to find the fastest Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso 1.3s off the pace. Felipe Massa fared even worse and had to make do with 18th, behind both Force Indias and both Toro Rossos.