Rosberg leads ominous Mercedes 1-2 in final practice

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Nico Rosberg has finished the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets, laying down a devastating pace that suggests Mercedes will go unchallenged for pole position later today.

Rosberg’s fastest time of 1:39.008 was two-tenths of a second quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton’s best effort, but the Briton comfortably claimed second place as third-placed Kimi Raikkonen finished over 1.1 seconds off of the P1 time.

The final hour-long practice session on Saturday afternoon in Malaysia saw teams split their running between long stints on the hard tire and qualifying simulations. In both trims, Mercedes was dominant, so much so that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso could not even better Hamilton’s hard tire time on the quicker option compound. However, Ferrari finished as the closest team to Mercedes with Kimi Raikkonen finishing strongly once again in third place.

Red Bull bounced back from another fuel sensor failure on Daniel Ricciardo’s car on Friday to finish strongly as Sebastian Vettel continues to find his feet with the new car. The German driver finished in fourth place, just ahead of compatriot Nico Hulkenberg who impressed for Force India in fifth place.

McLaren endured a very difficult final session in Malaysia as both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were forced to park up and let the team work on their cars. This loss of running could hurt the team during qualifying, but a possible hardware problem on one or both of the cars could give the team a race against time to get them ready for the session on Saturday.

Also struggled was Lotus once again, with Romain Grosjean complaining that “the rear of the car is a disaster” over the radio.

With Mercedes looking so dominant once again in final practice, it is difficult to see any team stopping Hamilton and Rosberg from locking out the front row. Instead, it could come down to which of the Silver Arrows has that extra edge and can beat his teammate to claim pole at Sepang.

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”