Kimi Raikkonen emphasised the Lotus team’s status as the outfit to beat in Malaysia by topping the second practice session at Sepang. The championship leader only had a slight edge on Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa but the E21 looked a strong package throughout the afternoon.
Raikkonen was already setting the pace in the early stages of FP2 as the teams concentrated on hard tyre running but the threat of a downpour shifted their focus as drivers switched to the medium tyres earlier than normal. Felipe Massa was the first of the frontrunners to make that change and immediately made a four tenth jump ahead of the Lotus. Red Bull were next to respond but as in FP1, they didn’t boast the advantage that took them to the front row in Australia. Vettel pipped Massa for the fastest time, albeit only by seven hundredths of a second, while a poor final sector saw Mark Webber trail by four tenths, only just beating Raikkonen’s time on the prime tyres.
Raikkonen was among the last drivers to try out the option tyres and Red Bull’s relative lack of pace in the final sector allowed him to regain the lead by 0.019s and before he got chance to kick off a race simulation, the heavens opened. The lack of grip was graphically demonstrated by the sight of Nico Hulkenberg spinning on the entrance to the pitlane and any meaningful dry running was finished for the day.
As a result, Raikkonen finished the day as the fastest man from Vettel and Massa with Fernando Alonso squeezing the second Ferrari in front of Mark Webber’s Red Bull. Romain Grosjean was sixth ahead of Nico Rosberg who continued to be the quicker of the two Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton ninth between the Force Indias of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil.
The McLarens trailed by 1.2s and look set to be involved in a dogfight to reach Q3 tomorrow. Sergio Perez was marginally quicker than Jenson Button although the Briton did look strong on the intermediate tyres late in the session, no doubt increasing McLaren’s hopes for a wet weekend.