Australian GP - Friday - Practice Session 2 Report
Red Bull rules
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were first and second in Free Practice 2 as Red Bull Racing topped the lap times on Friday evening.
"Overall it was a good day for us," Vettel said. "It was pretty seamless and there was no trouble with the car. After all the mileage of testing, it was fun to be out there ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ this circuit doesn't get easier, it's a good challenge. The soft tire doesn't last too long, but the harder tire is a decent race tire. The weather should be quite changeable tomorrow and, as we can't predict how much that will impact the tires and car balance, we need to be ready to change things. Today was a good day and the balance was good, but we need to be ready for what's coming up."
Just 10 minutes into the session Vettel, who had been quickest in the first practice session with a 1:27.211 in the Red Bull, broke into the 1:26 range when he clocked at 1:26.604 on the medium compound Pirelli slick tires. He soon lowered that to a 1:26.274.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Webber also got into the 1:26 range.
While the front runners continued to use the medium compound Pirellis, some further down tried out the super soft compound tires. With just over 45 minutes to go, Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) was the first of the big names to try out the super softs. After setting the fastest times in the first two sectors but going slower in the third, he moved to second place with a 1:26.748. Webber was next out on the super softs and jumped to the front with a 1:26.172.
Pretty soon a number of drivers including Vettel were out on the super softs. Vettel got stuck in traffic and was unable to improve his time. But on his next run he was back in first with a 1:25.908.
With 30 minutes to go, Hamilton looked set to beat that only to go off on the grass at Turn 9.
With 25 minutes to go, Vettel made another run on the super softs. But he and others were not going for a single fast lap but rather evaluating how many laps the super soft would last with a heavy fuel load. That would be vital information for Sunday's race.
With less than eight minutes to go, Hamilton went straight off at Turn 6 and lightly stuffed the nose of his Mercedes into the tire barrier because his car had been damaged when he went off the track earlier. He was seventh fastest at the time. A few minutes later Rosberg parked his Mercedes out on the track with gearbox woes. Then Webber had a half spin but managed to get going again without stalling the car.
Hamilton was still happy.
"A very good day," he said, "a surprisingly good day. Really positive. Obviously there have been a couple of issues. It is too early to say we are the best of the rest (behind Red Bull) but we are definitely up there. The Red Bull is massively quick, they have obviously been sandbagging the whole time in winter (testing.) And all of a sudden they have pulled out a lot of time. But I don't feel that they are miles away. To be able to say we have gone from being really far away to being not too far away from Red Bull is pretty impressive."
The top six in the session were: Vettel (1:25.908), Webber (1:26.172), Rosberg (1:26.322), Kimi Raikkonen (1:26.361), Romain Grosjean (1:26.680), Alonso (1:26.748).
McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Sergio Perez languished back in 11th and 13th.
"Clearly, we're not as quick as we'd like to be, so our task now is to work hard to find out why our car is like it is, particularly in terms of ride and downforce," Button said. "Our short runs weren't particularly encouraging, to be honest. We're a couple of seconds off the pace, by the looks of things, and that's always going to be disappointing for a team as successful as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
"But, in a situation like this one, all you can say is that there's a hell of a lot of work for us to do ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ and that we're well up for it. This team is incredibly good at turning things around, performance-wise, when that's what's required.
"So we'll now spend the next few hours working hard, studying our data, and I'm confident that we'll be able to find some improvements for tomorrow. Qualifying won't be easy, but I'm pretty sure we'll be able to do a better job on Saturday than we've done today."
Alonso also acknowledged that Ferrari has work to do.
"I'm not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today," he said. "The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best."