For the second weekend in a row, Maverick Vinales looks like the rider Yamaha debuted at Qatar in 2017. A win last week at Philip Island followed by this week's strong showing in practice, Vinales' form seems to have returned. Saturday's FP3 was another example of that.
The Spaniard's 1'59.231 near the session's end pushed Marc Marquez to second after it seemed certain the World Champion had secured the top time. Moreover, it does not appear to be a fliuke; it's the fastest lap of the weekend for a rider who has spent much of his his time in Sepang within the top five. For Marquez, it was second fastest for the second practice in a row. Jack Miller, also consistently quick this weekend, grabbed third.
Perhaps the surprise of the session was Dani Pedrosa. The factory Honda rider -- who has won races here before -- has struggled this season and in two prior practices this weekend in Malaysia. But with three minutes left in the session, he set a blistering lap that pushed him initially into third place and also into Q2. Johann Zarco, who briefly led late in the session, had no additional response as fast laps ticked off in the final minute. He settled for fifth, just in front of Danilo Petrucci.
Valentino Rossi, also quick early in the session, had no answer when the lap times dropped into the 1'59s. Rossi's seventh put him more than half a second from the top time of his teammate. Andrea Iannone (8th) finished as the top factory Suzuki with Suzuki teammate Alex Rins (15th) unable to match his top time in FP2. Alvaro Boutista (9th) and a surprising rookie Franco Morbidelli completed the top 10.
Note: Citing a lingering injury, Ducati factory rider Jorge Lorenzo withdrew from the race and was replaced in FP3 by Michele Pirro.