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.

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018