F1 Australia: Friday Practice 2; Lewis and Jenson Fastest, Schumacher Finally Faster Than Rosberg

What Happens When It Rains, but Not Too Much

3:17am EST — Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time (and the fastest time so far for the weekend, 1:25.801) in the second Friday practice in Australia, with rain beginning just as the session began.  It continued intermittently throughout the session, and the weather kept the teams from running more than a few laps at a time. McLaren teammate Jenson Button was just behind with the second fastest time, with Mark Webber third fastest.  For the first time this season, Michael Schumacher posted a faster time than teammate Nico Rosberg, fourth fastest as compared to tenth.  Vitaly Petrov completed the top five.  The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were fifteenth and seventeenth, sandwiching the other Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

In interesting news, Virgin has been allowed to change the size of their fuel tanks as Nick Wirth said, according to Autosport, “It has become clear during pre-season testing and our debut race in Bahrain that our fuel tank capacity is marginal and if not addressed there is the possibility that fuel pick-up could become an issue in certain circumstances.”  Unfortunately, the team will not have changed the car’s range until about the Turkish GP.

As Ferrari noted just over five minutes into the session, “no point in running now… the track is neirher [sic] fully wet nor ok for slicks.”  Adrian Sutil was the first back out during the “wet” session, on intermediates, though he didn’t post a full lap time.  The Williams’ were out next (“Doing setup work and tyre evaluations this afternoon,” according to the team’s Twitter feed), with Barrichello the first man to set a time in the session, fifteen minutes in and four seconds slower than Kubica’s fastest time in the first session.  Soon thereafter, most of the rest of the field began circulating.  Rosberg, then Button took the top spots, then Hamilton as they they all drop into the 1:26s, when only Kubica did so in the first session.

The McLaren teammates spent a bit of time trading the fastest lap betwixt themselves, with Hamilton the first into the 1:25s for the weekend.  A half hour in, the problems continued for HRT, with Karun Chandhok pulled off just after the pit exit.  He had not set a time and teammate Bruno Senna’s car was still in the garage with fuel pump issues.  Glock had also not yet left the garage.  Meanwhile, Petrov had snuck into the third fastest time of the session and three tenths faster than his teammate in the earlier session.  Some of the Renault’s pace might be explained by the fact that “The team’s package here in Melbourne includes a new front wing and a couple new mecanical [sic] improvements on the chassis,” as noted by the team’s Twitter account.  Soon after, the rain began again, bringing everyone back in. With the Sunday forecast for thunderstorms, it might be a fortuitous bit of weather.

Halfway through the session, drivers began to trickle back out onto the circuit, with most of the drivers reporting (quite obviously, one might imagine) that the white lines were slippery.  The times were considerably slower as well.  Schumacher radioed that he was experiencing heavy graining on the Mercedes’ front tires.  Even with the slower times and slippery conditions, the cars managed to look somehow racier than they did at Bahrain.  Not to guarantee that the race won’t be processional, but there was something far more exciting and poetic to the cars on the circuit at Melbourne than at Bahrain.

With a half hour left, Hamilton still led Button and Petrov, but Buemi had posted the fourth fastest time and Liuzzi rounded out the top five.  Schumacher still had the slowest posted time, with the Ferraris in fourteenth and fifteenth, though the team noted that “running with intermediate tyres would mean to sacrifice sets of tyres which could be helpful later on during the weekend.” Glock finally posted a time, while di Grassi, Chandhok, and Senna were unable to do so, with Senna saying on Twitter, “My car has a fuel pressure problem. Not a big deal to fix but will take too long to get out again.”

In the final fifteen minutes, most of the field returned to the circuit, though times did not particularly change until the track began truly drying out under the five minute mark.  Interestingly, Button posted the fastest of all times in sector 1, a quick time in sector 2, and a very slow time in sector 3, with no indication that he spun or had difficulty.  At the same time, Vettel (with a fifteenth fastest time) kept catching up a Ferrari, then spun, bringing some gravel back onto the track with him.  With less than a minute left, Webber and Schumacher moved themselves up into third and fourth fastest, respectively.  Still, Hamilton was the only man to post a lap time in the 1:25s range for the weekend.  Were the 107% rule to be implemented, only Glock would be removed (though others did not post times), with a time over the hypothetical 1:31.807 cut-off.  The following are the final times from the second Friday practice:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Hamilton 1:25.801 13
2. Button 1:26.076 +0.275 16
3. Webber 1:26.248 +0.447 22
4. Schumacher 1:26.511 +0.710 16
5. Petrov 1:26.732 +0.931 26
6. Buemi 1:26.732 +1.031 29
7. Sutil 1:26.834 +1.033 22
8. Liuzzi 1:26.835 +1.034 17
9. Barrichello 1:26.904 +1.103 25
10. Rosberg 1:26.956 +1.155 22
11. Kubica 1:27.108 +1.307 28
12. de la Rosa 1:27.108 +1.307 25
13. Kobayashi 1:27.455 +1. 654 23
14. Hulkenberg 1:27.545 +1. 744 25
15. Alonso 1:29.025 +3.224 20
16. Vettel 1:29.134 +3.333 19
17. Massa 1:29.591 +3.790 21
18. Kovalainen 1:29.860 +4.059 15
19. Alguersuari 1:30.510 +4.709 43
20. Trulli 1:30.695 +4.894 17
21. Glock 1:32.117 +6.316 9
22. di Grassi 2
23. Chandhok 1
24. Senna 0

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