Mark Webber took Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in second practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, a session with no lack of incident. As in Singapore, Red Bull and McLaren went head-to-head with Webber pipping Lewis Hamilton on their soft tyre runs and Sebastian Vettel taking third.
Within six minutes, the action was kicking off with Paul Di Resta sliding into the tyre barriers at Spoon on his first flying lap of the afternoon. The Force India driver dipped a wheel onto the dirt approaching the turn-in point, an error made by Heikki Kovalainen moments earlier but while the Finn escaped through the tarmac run-off, Di Resta careered into the wall.
Fernando Alonso was the first man to go faster than the morning benchmark with a 1:34.287 but he was soon overtaken by Jenson Button, the man who’d led the way this morning. Drivers were still circulating on the hard tyres and Sebastian Vettel was first to break into the 1:33s, a tenth clear of the McLaren, but Button found six tenths on the option tyres to regain the lead.
His second spell on top of the leaderboard was short-lived though as Romain Grosjean took over for Lotus. The Frenchman was the team’s sole representative for much of the session as an overheating KERS battery halted Kimi Raikkonen but the E20 was showing promising pace in Romain’s hands, delivering a 1:33.107.
Now on the option tyres himself, Sebastian Vettel broke into the 1:32s but Lewis Hamilton was able to do likewise, going a tenth faster than the World Champion on a 1:32.707. In the end, neither of them would top the session though as Mark Webber clocked a 1:32.493 in his Red Bull with the last of the option tyre runs. Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso also put in excellent laps to go fourth and fifth, pushing Grosjean and Button down the order.
The headline lap times had been set but plenty of drama was still to come as Michael Schumacher produced a carbon-copy of Di Resta’s early mishap, sending his Mercedes on a collision course with the tyre barrier. Before his crash, Schumacher had set a time good enough for tenth behind Bruno Senna and Felipe Massa with teammate Nico Rosberg right behind him.
The final minute of the session saw the most concerning incident of the afternoon as Vitaly Petrov spun off at turn one, a moment triggered by the loss of his Caterham’s rear wing. The Russian was uninjured with his car coming to a halt before reaching the wall but questions will now be asked as to the course of the failure.