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Rubens docked grid places as Ferrari roars at Sepang

BRAWN GP's Rubens Barrichello was given a five-place grid penalty at the Malaysian Grand Prix after the team made a gearbox change in his car following yesterday's practice sessions.

Barrichello was sixth fastest in the afternoon session and fourth fastest in the morning session on a day in which the team that dominated the Australian Grand Prix came back to the field.

Formula One rules dictate a gearbox must last four race meetings, and any premature change results in a five-place penalty on the starting grid.

Teammate Jenson Button was seventh in the afternoon session and third in the morning, with the drivers locking the tires and brakes regularly around the Sepang track.

"Our evaluations with the prime and option tire were particularly useful and although we still have some work to do on the balance, overall it was a positive day," Barrichello said.

Team owner and principal Ross Brawn acknowledged a dip in performance relative to Australia, but expected improvement.

"We struggled a little bit with the balance of the car and at the moment it is not performing quite as well as in Australia last weekend," Brawn said.

"However I am confident that we are on the right path and with some hard work overnight, we should be in a good position for the rest of the weekend."

Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari one-two here with the world champion back up to speed after a difficult start to the season.

Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who won at Sepang last year, fired in a quickest lap of one minute 35.707 seconds in the afternoon to end Nico Rosberg's four-session run at the top of the timesheets.

Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa was second fastest in 1:35.832.

Neither Ferrari driver scored a point in the Australian season-opener in the Italian team's worst start to a season since 1992.

"We had felt the situation here could be different to Melbourne but it is still too early to say where we are, up against the opposition," said Raikkonen.

"What we can be sure of is when the car runs trouble-free we are competitive. We hope we can do a good job in tomorrow's qualifying."

Raikkonen had to overcome an early setback when his car's cockpit filled with smoke at the end of the first session due to a short-circuit in the new kinetic energy system (KERS).

German Rosberg and Williams teammate Kazuki Nakajima of Japan had finished one-two in the bright and humid morning session.


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