A McLaren has finished on the top of the timesheets for the first time in 2011, with Jenson Button leading a surprise 1-2 for the Woking team in the second free practice session at the Australian Grand Prix. The pair were also the only drivers to lap in the 1m25s range during the 90-minute session.
Organisers elected to run the final half-hour of the session under race-like conditions, meaning that drivers were only able to activate their adjustable rear wings on the main straight. Predictably, this saw a scramble for a quick lap in the closing minutes leading up to this changeover, and it was here that Button improved on Hamilton’s fastest lap with a quick run on the softer ‘option’ compound tyre made available by Pirelli this weekend.
The list of the top five placegetters was completed by Fernando Alonso and the two Red Bulls – who finished quickest in the opening session – led by Sebastian Vettel and followed by Mark Webber.
Conditions remained similar to that experienced in the first practice session earlier this afternoon. Ambient and track temperatures hovered around the 16 and 20°C (61 and 68°F) marks, respectively, and a few spots of rain were about as the circuit opened.
The poorer weather returned in the final ten minutes of the session, and the FIA was quick to implement its ruling that the adjustable rear wings could not be run in these conditions. It remains to be seen what actual effect the wings will have in race conditions, but the limited simulation in this afternoon’s session won’t have revealed very much at all.
At the sharper end of the timesheets, the practice times for Red Bull were particularly impressive, as the team had instructed its drivers not to use the rear wing device other than on the main straight, including in the first hour of running.
The team also put its drivers on longer runs in the first part of the session – Webber managed 18 laps, Vettel 20 – and both lapped in the 1m30s range while those at the front were lapping in the 1m26s region.
Pirelli used this session to make its softer tyre compound available to the entire grid, and Michael Schumacer was quick to move to the top of the timesheets, setting the pace ahead of Button, Alonso, Felipe Massa, Sébastien Buemi and Sauber rookie Sergio Pérez, who managed to finish inside the top-ten at the end of this session.
The softer tyres’ higher wear rate created problems for several drivers, with several taking trips through the kitty litter at Turn 3 as they explored the limits of grip available to them. Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, in particular, looked like quite the handful under braking, with his F150° Italia seeming to want to step out at the back with every opportunity.
Renault’s seemingly promising pre-season pace hasn’t yet materialised at Albert Park, and the pair of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld sat on the fringes of the top-ten, eventually finishing 13th- and 14th-quickest respectively.
Equally, Force India hasn’t yet shown much in the way of pace as yet, and on initial appearances it looks like Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta could be competing with each other for that dreaded Q1 knockout spot.
This is being written with the assumption that none of the three sophomore teams will make it out of the first round of qualifying – and indeed, two might struggle to qualify altogether – as Team Lotus was the quickest of the lot, but still close to five seconds a lap slower. Virgin Racing again struggled, although their overall times improved in a conservative-looking MVR-02 that is clearly lacking in downforce.
And Hispania Racing finally managed to assemble and fire up one of its F111 chassis, which Vitantonio Liuzzi took around Albert Park for a single slow tour at the very end of the session, marking the very first time that the new Geoff Willis-designed car had even turned a wheel.
2011 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 Session Times:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:25.854||32|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.132||31|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.147||28|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.160||35|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.429||33|
|6.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 0.736||31|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.935||34|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 1.247||39|
|9.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 1.426||34|
|10.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 1.594||23|
|11.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 1.671||31|
|12.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 1.674||29|
|13.||Nick Heidfeld||Renault R31||+ 1.682||22|
|14.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 1.843||30|
|15.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 2.241||35|
|16.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.522||33|
|17.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.729||31|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 3.532||29|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 4.975||22|
|20.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 5.058||23|
|21.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 6.252||36|
|22.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 6.281||30|
|23.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||no time||1|
|24.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||no time||0|