Lewis Hamilton sent out a warning shot to his rivals ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon by dominating the final Formula 1 practice session of the weekend at Sepang.
Hamilton arrived in Malaysia trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship for the first time since the middle of July following the German’s trio of victories since the summer break.
Hamilton lagged behind Rosberg in FP1 before pulling ahead in FP2 on Friday afternoon, and extended his advantage in the final hour of practice running on Saturday.
A fastest lap of 1:34.434 was enough to give Hamilton P1 by four-tenths of a second, but it was not Rosberg who finished as the next-best driver.
Instead, a rapid lap late in the session from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen saw him slot into second place, giving his team hope of a challenge to Mercedes through qualifying and Sunday’s race.
Rosberg was left to settle for P3, six-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton’s best lap and just a tenth clear of the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth in the second Red Bull, one second off Hamilton’s itme, while Nico Hulkenberg ended up P7 for Force India ahed of Valtteri Bottas. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Massa rounded out the top 10.
With a litany of engine penalties already racked up, Fernando Alonso opted to limit his practice running on Saturday morning and save tires, finishing P22 and some six seconds off the pace. The Spaniard is expecting to watch most of qualifying on TV later today.
For those wishing to do the same, you can watch qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 5am ET on Saturday.