MALAYSIAN GRAND PRIX IN SEPANG

THERE were only two colours that everyone at the Sepang circuit trained their eyes on yesterday in the two practice sessions - red and silver.

Red is for Ferrari, and silver is for McLaren, as the red-hot new world champion Michael Schumacher took on the cool former world champion Mika Hakkinen on the straights and curves of Sepang.

Nothing was at stake yesterday but just a little psychological warfare as both drivers set out to find the right balance for today's qualifying session.

Their partners - Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard - completed the top four practice times.

In the morning session, the Ferrari pair dominated as Schumacher clocked 1:40.290sec.

The Brazilian trailed his team-mate in 1:41.097, while Coulthard relegated Hakkinen to fourth.

After a couple of major tweaks, the Finn came out flying to top the afternoon session with a 1:40.262.

Said the 32-year-old: "We worked a lot on getting the optimum set-up for the car and we made great progress after the morning session. The team has done a good job.

"While it's tough in this heat, it's not as bad as last year as we now have power steering in the car. And it's a good way to start our preparations for the last race."

Schumacher could only manage 1:40.276, while Coulthard trailed closely with 1:40.697, pushing Barrichello to fourth, after managing only 1:40.877.

While the German may have sealed the drivers' title, he is keen to help Ferrari win the constructors' championship tomorrow.

All Ferrari needs is for one of its drivers to finish in fourth and get three points.

Schumacher thinks that today's qualifying session will be hotly contested again, saying: "It is very close between McLaren and us. We knew it would be."

But unlike Hakkinen, he relishes the heat of Sepang.

"It may be hot here but I am fit, and it's no problem. In fact, I suffer more when it's cold than when it's hot," he said.