If anyone needed confirmation that Red Bull Racing was undoubtedly sandbagging during pre-season testing, then the comfortable 1-2 on the timesheets for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the end of the second practice session at the Australian Grand Prix cast an ominous shadow down the pit lane.
Behind the reigning champions, Nico Rosberg finished best of the rest in his Mercedes – 0.4 seconds of Vettel’s ultimate lap time – despite stopping late in the session with a gearbox problem.
The overcast conditions witnessed early this morning around Albert Park had long since disappeared when the second practice session kicked off at 4:30pm local time. For the first time this weekend, the field was given the opportunity to run on the Super Soft Pirelli tyre compound, which gave them the chance to simulate conditions they can reasonably expect in tomorrow’s qualifying session.
Ultimate lap times were obviously quicker, but the conditions also helped allay fears that the ultra-soft tyres could in fact last at least a handful of high-speed laps before needing to be replaced for fresh rubber.
Vettel set the pace early on and was ultimately never troubled en route to posting the day’s quickest time of 1:25.908, beating Webber – who looked much more assured in the second session – to top spot by 0.264 seconds.
However, Webber didn’t enjoy a completely trouble-free session. The Albert Park circuit’s slippery nature caught him out at one point as he lost the back end of the car exiting Turn 13, where he was lucky enough to avoid a front-on collision with the inside barriers.
Despite Rosberg’s pace, there could be some furrowed brows in the Mercedes camp after neither car managed to complete the session. Rosberg stopped late in the 90-minute session with an apparent gearbox issue, while Hamilton – who had overshot his braking points on a few occasions – suffered a clumsy slide into the Turn 6 barriers just minutes before his team-mate parked his car.
The Mercedes pair sandwiched the Lotus pairing of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean, as well as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, on the timesheets, while Alonso’s team-mate Felipe Massa was eighth-fastest.
Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg ensured that the grid’s entire German contingent finished inside the top-ten on the timesheets, with both having positive outings for Force India and Sauber respectively.
Worryingly for McLaren, neither Jenson Button nor Sergio Pérez were able to crack the top-ten on the timesheets, with the Woking team now starting to have serious misgivings about the ultimate pace of its MP4-28 design.
Further down the order, Daniel Ricciardo finished fourteenth-fastest in his home event, with his cause not being helped by a clumsy spin at Turn 4 caused by him dropping a wheel onto the grass as he turned into the left-hander.
As expected, the back of the field was again occupied by the Marussia and Caterham brigades. F1 debutante Giedo van der Garde ended his session early with a mistake at Turn 3 that sent him sliding into the gravel trap.
2013 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:25.908||34|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:26.172||+ 0.264||31|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:26.322||+ 0.414||26|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:26.361||+ 0.453||38|
|5.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:26.680||+ 0.772||32|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:26.748||+ 0.840||35|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:26.772||+ 0.864||28|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:26.855||+ 0.947||32|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:27.435||+ 1.527||35|
|10.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:28.187||+ 2.279||34|
|11.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:28.294||+ 2.386||30|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:28.311||+ 2.403||37|
|13.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:28.566||+ 2.658||33|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:28.627||+ 2.719||31|
|15.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:28.772||+ 2.864||33|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:28.852||+ 2.944||34|
|17.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:28.968||+ 3.060||36|
|18.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:29.386||+ 3.478||39|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:29.696||+ 3.788||32|
|20.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:30.165||+ 4.257||37|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:30.600||+ 4.692||36|
|22.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:32.450||+ 6.542||11|