Sebastian Vettel continued his domination of the Australian Grand Prix weekend by topping the second practice session at Albert Park, leading an ominous Red Bull Racing 1-2. The defending champion was four tenths clear of any other make of car with Nico Rosberg the closest challenger but Mercedes ended the session with much to ponder as both of their drivers stopped on the circuit.
Vettel had led the morning session with a 1:27.211 and quickly broke into the 1:26s on the medium tyres this afternoon. The switch to the supersoft compound didn’t bring the quantum leap in performance many were expecting with the tyres seemingly dropping off towards the end of the lap, as the Ferrari drivers both found out as they went for a hot lap.
Vettel’s 1:26.274 on the mediums was finally beaten by teammate Mark Webber on the supersofts, albeit by just a tenth of a second, and Sebastian’s first chance of responding was thwarted by Pastor Maldonado’s Williams which became a hindrance in the final sector. After a slow lap to cool the tyres, Vettel found enough grip to break into the 1:25s and with the teams closing the session in race-simulation mode, he maintained his quarter-of-a-second advantage.
Nico Rosberg maintained third as his teammate Lewis Hamilton made a hash of his best lap on supersofts, outbraking himself into turn nine, but the problems were only just beginning for Mercedes. Hamilton entered the gravel again with seven minutes remaining after failing to slow the W04 down for turn six but this time he made it as far as the wall, ending his session. The team still had Rosberg running on high fuel but the German would also grind to a halt seconds later, suffering a suspected gearbox problem.
In terms of pace, the Brackley squad had plenty to be pleased about with Rosberg third ahead of Lotus teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean with Hamilton seventh behind Fernando Alonso despite his problems on the option tyres. Felipe Massa couldn’t repeat his morning heroics, tumbling to eighth, but Adrian Sutil could and continued his excellent start to life back in Formula One with ninth place overall.
Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten which left McLaren conspicuous by their absence from the top ten. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were eleventh and thirteenth respectively with team principal Martin Whitmarsh admitting to Sky Sports during the session that the team were “struggling” and “lacking pace”. The timesheets certainly reflected that with Button 2.386s adrift of Vettel’s Red Bull.
The MP4-28s were split by Paul Di Resta who enjoyed a much smoother afternoon after his exploits in FP1. Daniel Ricciardo was next up for Toro Rosso ahead of Esteban Gutierrez while the fastest Williams was all the way down in sixteenth courtesy of Pastor Maldonado. The battle at the back of the field was won by Marussia’s Jules Bianchi once again with Caterham losing valuable track time after Giedo van der Garde beached his CT03 at turn three on his twelfth lap.