Sepang: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in Saturday's final practice for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, indicating he is primed to take his first-ever Formula One pole position.
Rosberg was an impressive four tenths of a second quicker than world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, with the other Red Bull of Mark Webber third fastest.
The Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were fourth and fifth on the timesheets respectively, with McLaren's Jenson Button - who won last weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix - in sixth.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado was seventh ahead of Mercedes' Michael Schumacher. Second through seventh were separated by just a tenth of second.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who set the fastest times in both of Friday's practice sessions, was down the order in ninth after losing a chunk of track time when he ran wide at the bend entering the back straight, damaging a set of tires and possibly inflicting other damage that kept him in the garage until the final ten minutes. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi completed the top ten.
Light rain began at the start of the session but soon cleared, and running was done on dry-weather tires.
Rosberg's best ever qualifying performance in 109 races is second, but he has a strong chance of finally taking pole later Saturday. The Mercedes is well suited to the long straights of the Sepang circuit, as it has an innovative aerodynamic device that channels air from the rear wing to the front to reduce drag on fast sections.
Ferrari's struggles continued, with Fernando Alonso 13th on the timesheets and Felipe Massa in 18th. The team has acknowledged it is well behind its rivals in development early this season, and it will take several races to catch up.
The two HRT cars were both inside seven percent of Rosberg's time, suggesting they will be quick enough to beat that same threshold in qualifying and be eligible for Sunday's race. They failed to qualify in Australia.