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.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup