Heikki Kovalainen put his Melbourne woes behind him and topped the times on the last day of testing at Sepang. The Renault man clocked 1:35.757 for the best of the 12 drivers present. In the morning Kovalainen completed a qualifying simulation but his afternoon schedule of long runs was interrupted by a mechanical problem.
"There is still a lot of progress to be made, but we are moving in the right direction, and I think we got the maximum from our week's running in the circumstances," said chief test engineer Christian Silk. "Heikki seems comfortable at this track, he learned it quickly and is in good shape going into next week's Grand Prix."
Second fastest was Ferrari's Felipe Massa, just half a tenth off Kovalainen. The Brazilian concluded preparations for the upcoming race, including evaluation of new components and electronics as well as the usual set up work. The team described the day as "entirely trouble free" and Massa completed 73 laps.
Anthony Davidson was third quickest for Super Aguri, although a second off the pace of Kovalainen and Massa. After Takuma Sato started the test, Davidson's days behind the wheel were a little disrupted by the weather but he managed some work on Friday. "Today we completed half a day's running with the tyres and engine mileage we had left," he said.
"I felt more confident in the car and the lap times were quite good, but even so we have a lot of work to do on the long run balance next Friday. The test here has been very valuable for me as it is a circuit that I did not know well and I have learnt a lot from our time here this week."
The Williams of Nico Rosberg was fourth on the time sheet and Toyota test driver Franck Montagny was fifth. Montagny had a precautionary engine change then worked on set up and tyres in the rain shower that arrived in the afternoon. This week was the Frenchman's first visit to Sepang and he was satisfied with the team's progress.
"We focused on the set-up, continuing the work we started on Tuesday," he commented. "Some more work was done by Ralf on Wednesday and Thursday and we just followed on. I think it went quite well, we just have to carry on in this way when the race weekend starts. Everybody worked well and I am quite optimistic for the team's chances for this race."
Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber was sixth overall but his running was delayed in the morning by a technical glitch in the engine department. Set up was his focus once he got going, then in the afternoon he completed systems work and a long run. The rain gave an opportunity for tyre evaluation in changeable conditions.
Honda had Jenson Button and test driver Christian Klien sharing the driving duties, seventh and 12th respectively. In the morning Button continued with the aerodynamic programme he started on Thursday then Klien took over in the afternoon. The Austrian's work was affected by the rain but he tried out different tyres.
"We have run through a lot of test items this week, mainly with new aero parts, trying to resolve some of the issues we had in Australia," Button said. "The car definitely works better around the Sepang circuit, partly because braking stability is not as important here but also because we have made some improvements over the week."
Lewis Hamilton and tester Pedro de la Rosa shared a McLaren between them and were eighth and 11th respectively. Hamilton focused on long runs although an oil pipe failure bought him to a halt near the end of his programme. Once it was fixed de la Rosa went out in the afternoon but did limited running due to the rain shower.
Hamilton found his first experience of Malaysia quite tough. "The heat in the cockpit is incredible, but I am making sure I keep hydrated when I am at the track and am continuing to train in the heat," he said. "These three days have been really useful as part of my acclimatisation process for the race. The circuit itself is great, it is very wide and flowing, and I am looking forward to racing on it."
Ninth on the time sheet was the Red Bull of Mark Webber. "A very good test in terms of the mileage covered and the reliability and performance of the car," said chief test Engineer Ian Morgan of the week's work. "The heat and humidity did not throw up any problems, although it was tiring for the team who did a fantastic job of work over six days and nights."
Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso was 10th and the team's main focus was to put some more mileage on the car after scant winter testing. Evaluation of tyres and new aerodynamic and suspension components were also on the agenda. Chief engineer Laurent Mekies was fairly satisfied with the way things went.
"In some ways, this was like an extension of winter testing for us," he remarked. "We had four busy days and reliability was okay for this stage in the season, but we still have a lot of work to do. The new aero and suspension components produced positive results and we hope to use some of them as early as next week's race."