Sepang, Malaysia: Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton set the fastest times in Saturday's pre-qualifying practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix, putting the team on track for another front-row grid lockout.
Rosberg set the fastest time of 1 minute, 39.690 seconds at the Sepang International Circuit, less than two tenths of a second ahead of Hamilton, the reigning world champion who beat Rosberg in the season-opening race in Australia.
Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth on the timesheets, ahead of the two Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in a symmetrical top of the order.
Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull had the seventh best time on another steamy day at Sepang, when track temperatures again reached 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit).
Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. posted the eighth-fastest time, ahead of 17-year-old teammate Max Verstappen, with Sauber's Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top ten.
Mercedes has locked out the front row a record nine-straight times dating back to last season, and the lead-up practice sessions at Sepang gave every indication they will make it ten later Saturday.
The only two wildcards that could prevent another Mercedes victory on Sunday are the tires and the weather.
The blazing track temperature mean the faster medium-compound tire has been degrading quickly, meaning the race order is likely to reflect which car and driver is kindest on its rubber, rather than faster overall.
None of the three practice sessions have been affected by rain, yet the history of this race shows sudden downpours can appear quickly. No team has done any running on Pirelli's 2015 wet-weather tires, so their possible appearance this weekend could produce unexpected results.