Mar.16 (PVM) Seven times world champion Michael Schumacher topped the timing screens at the end of free practice two of the Australian Grand Prix weekend at a wet and overcast Albert Park circuit.
A miserable day in Melbourne greeted the new Formula 1 season, and although there were brief periods of sunshine it was mostly rain, resulting in an afternoon practice session that did nothing to clarify the pecking order ahead of qualifying.
The track was damp throughout the session and ended up being about two seconds slower than in the morning. Schumacher left it very late in the 90 minutes with a flurry of quick laps which saw him displace fellow countryman Nico Hulkenberg, in the Force India VJM05, from top spot on the timing screens at the very end of the session.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told BBC, “We’re in much better shape than 12 months ago and we’ve got a stronger bed of foundation. All our resources are now being put into improving the performance of the car, whereas 12 months ago there was all sorts wrong with the car, so we were distracted.”
Schumacher ending 0.109 seconds quicker than Hulkenberg. As in the first session, Mercedes powered cars were first and second in the session.
Next up – third, fourth and fifth fastest respectively – were a trio of Ferrari powered cars with Sergio Perez’s Sauber C31 a full second off Schumacher’s best, followed by Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari F2012 and Kamui Kobayashi in the other Sauber.
Paul di Resta was sixth on the timing sheets, over two seconds off his Force India team mate Hulkenberg, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa seventh and Heikki Kovalainen eighth in the Caterham CT01.
Three seconds down on his team mate was Nico Rosberg in the Silver Arrows who ended the session ninth.
Below him on the timing sheets were the Red Bull duo with Sebastian Vettel 10th and Mark Webber 11th in their RB8s.
Where things get decidedly dicey, when trying to make sense of the session, is interpreting the first practice pace setters – McLaren – languishing down in 15th and 16th, with Jenson Button fractionally faster than Lewis Hamilton again. One would assume this to be part of the plan for the Woking squad whose pit garage in Melbourne is oozing a calm confidence.
Speaking to BBC Martin Whitmarsh said, “The car’s handling reasonably well. It’s got reasonable traction and I think the drivers are comfortable in the car.”
Also keeping their gunpowder dry (literally!) were the Lotus pair with Romain Grosjean down in 14th and Kimi Raikkonen down in 18th with only seven laps to his credit. Not an ideal first day back in F1 for the 2007 world champion.
Biggest surprise of the session was the performance of Timo Glock, in the straight-out-the-box Marussia MR01, who ended the session 12th fastest with 17 laps to his credit. Quite an achievment considering the car was hardly ready a few days ago. His rookie team mate Charles Pic managed 13 laps, but was 5.5 seconds off the pace.
HRT continued to embarrass as Pedro de la Rosa failed to set a time during the course of the day, while Narain Karthikeyan circulated (16 laps in total) but a whopping 13 seconds adrift of Schumacher’s top time. DNQ beckons for both drivers.
Thus ends day one of the Australian grand prix weekend with more questions unanswered and as all the top guns have been saying: Qualifying will reveal all!
Free Practice 2 – Melbourne, 16 March 2012
|2||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.292||0.109||19|
|6||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.466||2.283||13|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.194||3.011||19|
|11||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.296||3.113||20|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||No time||1|