Friday practice at Sepang saw normal service resumed with the Red Bulls and Mclarens at the front. Only where in Australia it was Vettel and Hamilton leading the way, here it is Webber and Button taking over at the front.
The Mercedes and Ferraris are next in terms of pace but well over a second shy of Webber, Felipe Massa comfortably outpacing Alonso which hopefully marks the beginnings of a welcome return to form. Thereafter the Williams, Toro Rossos and Renaults look a bit shy of raw speed.
Most of the teams reported serious tyre wear issues, the extreme heat of Malaysia compared to the pleasant 18-19 degrees in Melbourne are probably partly to blame for this and the surface may be more abrasive. Also the preponderance of high speed sweeping turns at Sepang will put enormous strain on the rubber. So while the predictions for four and five stop strategies (necessities?) in Melbourne didn't materialise by and large, they may well do this weekend.
Come qualifying I still think Vettel will have the pace to leapfrog the three ahead of him in practice, and ultimately I think the Red Bulls will be too strong for the silver cars, and everyone else, this weekend. That said, a sprinkling (is it ever a sprinkling in Malaysia?) of rain and we could have an interesting race on our hands.
Qualifying prediction: 1. Vettel 2. Webber 3. Hamilton 4. Button 5. Alonso 6. Rosberg