Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the second practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix, edging out championship-leading team-mate Nico Rosberg by just over two tenths of a second.
In the morning session, Rosberg had finished half a second clear of Hamilton, though he had been a step softer in tyre use on his best lap, running with soft compound Pirellis compared with medium tyres for the defending champion.
However, when both drivers bolted on soft compound tyres for performance runs in the afternoon session it was Hamilton who held away, with the Briton beating the German driver by 0.233s.
After finishing fourth behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in FP1 Sebastian Vettel beat the Finn in the afternoon, finishing 0.237 clear to take P3 behind the Mercedes. After both drivers finished the first session 1.1s adrift of P1 man Rosberg on the same tyre, there was encouragement for Ferrari in the afternoon with Vettel cutting the deficit by four tenths of a second.
Max Verstappen was fifth fastest, 0.2s adrift of Raikkonen. The Dutchman was the lead Red Bull driver, finishing three tenths of a second clear of eighth-placed Daniel Ricciardo. Verstappen was still almost 1.1s behind Hamilton, however, and though he had taken almost seven tenths of a second out of his morning best, set on medium tyres, the deficit to Mercedes was still significant.
Splitting the Red Bulls were Force India’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who enjoyed another good session following his fifth place in the morning.
Force India’s good start to the weekend continued with Nico Hulkenberg ending FP2 in ninth place ahead of the second McLaren of Jenson Button.
By contrast, Williams’ low key start to the weekend went on and after finishing 12th and 18th in the morning, Valtteri Bottas was 13th in the afternoon with team-mate Felipe Massa 15th.
2016 Malaysian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.944 35
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.177 36
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:35.605 37
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.842 31
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:36.037 29
6 Sergio Perez Force India 1:36.284 33
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:36.296 27
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:36.337 30
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.390 37
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.715 22
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:36.836 30
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:36.940 36
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.016 37
14 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:37.048 28
15 Felipe Massa Williams 1:37.110 19
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:37.297 29
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:37.449 28
18 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:37.547 26
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:37.664 19
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:37.789 25
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:37.878 34
22 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:37.990 36