Practice Two - Schumacher tops unsettled session 16 Mar 2012
Mercedes Michael Schumacher fastest, Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber 10th and 11th, McLarens Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton 15th and 16th. Force Indias Nico Hulkenberg second, Saubers Sergio Perez third, Caterhams Heikki Kovalainen eighth and Marussias Timo Glock 12th
Friday evenings second free practice session at Melbournes Albert Park was certainly not dull, once heavy rain had abated and the track had started to dry out after an hour. Up until then things went back and forth, until drivers started running hard on Pirellis mediums and then their softs.
The final quarter of an hour was a blitz of fast - and unusual - lap times. And without wishing to decry some great performances from several unfancied runners, it was clear that some teams ran their cars with heavier fuel loads than others and that some did not run the soft compound tyres.
It was Hulkenberg who seemed set to stay on top with 1m 29.292s, until a very on-form Schumacher dislodged him literally at the last minute with 1m 29.183s for Mercedes.
Behind them, Perez posted 1m 30.199s to head Fernando Alonsos Ferrari on 1m 30.341s, as Kamui Kobayashi survived a mighty tank slapper which turned into a spin exiting the final corner, having earlier lapped the other Sauber in 1m 30.709s. Paul di Resta had a spell at the top but ended up sixth in the second Force India with 1m 31.466s, ahead of Felipe Massas Ferrari on 1m 31.505s and Kovalainen who did 1m 31.932s to give Caterham their best-ever practice performance with eighth.
Nico Rosberg took his Mercedes round in 1m 32.184s to head Vettel and Webber on 1m 32.194s and 1m 32.296s respectively, while Glock took the untried but very sleek and light Marussia to 12th with 1m 32.632s. Vitaly Petrov was 13th in the other Caterham on 1m 32.767s, with one-time pacesetter Romain Grosjean 14th on 1m 32.822s in the lead Lotus.
The McLarens were close to one another, with Button on 1m 33.039s and Hamilton on 1m 33.252s, then there was another gap to Pastor Maldonado, another to have had a brief spell at the top of the times, on 1m 34.108s for Williams ahead of Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 34.275s, Williams Bruno Senna on 1m 34.312s, Toro Rossos Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 34.485s and Daniel Ricciardo on 1m 34.604s.
Charles Pic came on well in only his second official free practice session with 1m 34.770s in the other Marussia, and Narain Karthikeyan was the final driver with a timed lap of 1m 42.627s before his HRT rolled to a halt again at the end. The Indian had a fuel pick-up problem this morning. Team mate Pedro de la Rosa once again failed to register a timed lap as HRT battled further new-car problems.
So it was a most unusual session, with the vagaries of weather, tyre choice and fuel load factored in, and how relevant it will be will only be seen tomorrow, when everyone runs to the same specification in Q1.
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