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Practice Two - Schumacher tops unsettled session 16 Mar 2012

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Crowds watch the action.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012

Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher fastest, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber 10th and 11th, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton 15th and 16th. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg second, Sauber’s Sergio Perez third, Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen eighth and Marussia’s Timo Glock 12th…

Friday evening’s second free practice session at Melbourne’s 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 Pirelli’s 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 Alonso’s 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 Massa’s 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 Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 34.275s, Williams’ Bruno Senna on 1m 34.312s, Toro Rosso’s 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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