Sebastian Vettel led a clean sweep in Friday practice at the 2013 Australian Grand Prix

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.

Hamilton slid into the barriers late in the sessionDespite 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.

van der Garde slides into the gravelFurther 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:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:25.908   34
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:26.172 + 0.264 31
3. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:26.322 + 0.414 26
4. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:26.361 + 0.453 38
5. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:26.680 + 0.772 32
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:26.748 + 0.840 35
7. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:26.772 + 0.864 28
8. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:26.855 + 0.947 32
9. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:27.435 + 1.527 35
10. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:28.187 + 2.279 34
11. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:28.294 + 2.386 30
12. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:28.311 + 2.403 37
13. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:28.566 + 2.658 33
14. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:28.627 + 2.719 31
15. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:28.772 + 2.864 33
16. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:28.852 + 2.944 34
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:28.968 + 3.060 36
18. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:29.386 + 3.478 39
19. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:29.696 + 3.788 32
20. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:30.165 + 4.257 37
21. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:30.600 + 4.692 36
22. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:32.450 + 6.542 11

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.