Five teams in the top six hints at a close race in prospect
Ferrari team mates Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen set the pace in Fridays second practice for the Australian Grand Prix. However, with McLarens Lewis Hamilton, Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella and BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld all close behind, the Italian team look unlikely to have things all their own way this weekend.
Following the mornings damp opening session, there were a few anxious moments over the lunch break when the skies over Albert Park went grey. However, practice resumed on a dry track with BMW Saubers Robert Kubica and Williams Nico Rosberg taking over their regular mounts from their respective test team mates Sebastian Vettel and Kazuki Nakajima.
This time Massa set the pace initially with 1m 28.582s, lowering that to 1m 28.111s as the McLarens chased after him. Once again Hamilton was highly impressive, looking smooth and calm as he shadowed Fernando Alonsos times only a couple of tenths down.
The Spaniard had just set the fastest lap of 1m 28.040s (compared to Hamiltons 1m 28.251s) when Rubens Barrichellos Honda snapped away from him in the last corner before tapping the outside wall.
After a 15-minute red flag period - in which Heikki Kovalainens stricken Renault was also collected from Turn 4, whence it had ground to a halt at the same time - things resumed with Massa banging in a 1m 27.868s lap to go fastest from Heidfelds 1m 27.970s for BMW. Massa subsequently lowered his time to 1m 27.353s, which remained the fastest overall. Hamilton followed him with 1m 27.829s which stood him second fastest until Kimi Raikkonen got going to ease ahead of the McLaren with 1m 27.750s, just as Fisichella moved to fourth on 1m 27.941s, just ahead of Heidfeld. Gripping stuff!
Unfortunately for Renault, Fisichellas car then also stopped, also in Turn 4. Its an unusual day when neither Renault is around at the finish. In both cases the team blamed fuel pressure problems, the causes of which are being investigated.
Right at the end, Alex Wurz jumped his Williams up to sixth with 1m 27.981s, leaving Alonso seventh on his 1m 28.040s ahead of Rosberg, who also improved at the end for 1m 28.055s. Robert Kubica was ninth for BMW on 1m 28.281s, with David Coulthard rounding out the top 10 for Red Bull with 1m 28.495s.
In the second half, Hondas B team beat their A team, Anthony Davidson beating Super Aguri team mate Takuma Sato after lapping his SA07 in 1m 28.727s compared to the Japanese drivers 1m 29.009s. That put both ahead of Jenson Button, an unhappy 14th on 1m 29.066s, and Barrichello 15th on 1m 29.542s. To make matters worse for the Japanese manufacturer, Toyotas Jarno Trulli separated the Super Aguris in 12th place, after a lap in 1m 28.921s.
Toyotas second car was 16th courtesy of Ralf Schumachers 1m 29.574s best, ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull on 1m 29.801s.
Kovalainens 1m 30.097s lap left him 18th in the line-up, ahead of the Toro Rossos and Spykers. Scott Speed was the quickest of this quartet on 1m 30.383s, with Adrian Sutil continuing - albeit only just - to show Spyker team mate Christijan Albers the way round. The German lapped in 1m 31.108s, the Dutchman 1m 31.175s.
At the back, Tonio Liuzzi was stranded on 1m 31.693s after his Toro Rosso went off in Turn 14. He made it back to the pits, but did not go out again.
When you look at Jenson Buttons 2006 pole time of 1m 25.229s its clear how much the Bridgestone control tyres have slowed things down thus far in 2007.