Lewis Hamilton responded to the pace shown by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg during opening practice in Malaysia on Friday morning by topping the afternoon session at Sepang.
Hamilton arrived in Malaysia trailing Rosberg for the first time in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship since the middle of July, the German’s run of three straight wins giving him an eight-point advantage in the standings.
Hamilton finished almost half a second off Rosberg in FP1, but managed to up his pace in second practice to record a fastest time of 1:34.944, enough to finish two-tenths of a second clear of the field.
Rosberg followed his teammate home in second place as Mercedes once again gapped the rest of the pack, pointing towards a significant advantage over one lap in qualifying.
Sebastian Vettel led Ferrari’s charge in third place, finishing 0.6 seconds off Hamilton’s fastest time, but was able to run the Mercedes duo closer during the long-run stints on the soft tire.
Kimi Raikkonen underpinned Vettel’s pace in the second Ferrari, finishing fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in P5.
Sergio Perez followed in sixth place for Force India ahead of Fernando Alonso, who is set to start from the back of the grid this weekend after making changes to his power unit to accommodate new upgrades from Honda.
Daniel Ricciardo ended the session eighth for Red Bull, while Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 positions.
The session saw Kevin Magnussen head back out on track following his firey exit from FP1, the Renault crew producing a rapid turnaround to get the singed R.S.16 car ready to head out midway through FP2. The Dane eventually finished 19th in the classification.