A Spanish dry spell suits Vettel in FP2

Despite times being down a few seconds from testing trim, Free Practice Two was a closely run affair, with Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheet in a session again blighted with tyre unreliability.World © Octane Photographic Ltd.

With improved conditions after the damp session that marred Free Practice One, teams wasted no time in sending drivers out for some serious data collecting. Ferrari had breathing space (thanks to their dominant FP1 session) and chose to investigate the attributes of Pirelli’s experimental hard tyre.

True to form, Sebastian Vettel was first onto the track after both he and team-mate Mark Webber appeared at the bottom of the timesheets earlier in the day – also trialling the new hard compound. Teams would spend longer than usual investigating the hards -  a rarity in Free Practice Two – to make up for lost time earlier in the day.

Hamilton was initially quickest (dropping into the high 1.23’s) with Rosberg in arrears. Torro Rosso backed up their FP1 form with RIcciardo and Vergne third and fourth respectively; Vergne in particular continuing a strong run on intermediates in 2013.

Shortly after, Hamilton set two of the fastest first sectors before overcooking it at turn 11 and aborting the lap; his balance presumably affected by a crosswind.

Now on mediums, Webber and Vettel soon settled into a groove however and took over the top two positions in respective order – the final chicane always being a specialty with the Australian. A personal best for Alonso in the first sector vaulted the hometown hero into second. Felipe Massa soon joined Fernando amongst the top three by setting a personal best in sector two.

As the pace quickened, so did the familiar sight of Astroturf being torn-up at the exit of Campsa corner.

Further down the grid, Charles Pic once again had the better of his team-mate Giedo van der Garde to the tune of 2 seconds, whilst Pic’s compatriot Bianchi renewed his battle by demoting Charles down the order.

Despite losing a bit of time in the final sector (the old chicane again), Vettel topped the times by circulating 8-hundredths faster than Webber. Massa was now three-tenths down on Vettel’s best, whilst Alonso was able to split the RB9’s – the three of them all now within a tenth. Half a second in arrears, Hamilton continued to lead the Mercedes assault down in fifth.

A confusing trend of comparable times between the mediums and the softs was apparent during this session, but again could be placed to general performance parameters, different fuel-loads or simply under-performers being flattered by the softer compounds.  It would be unlikely until Free Practice three until we see any genuine hierarchy, but it will be fascinating to see how the medium performs in qualifying.

Raikkonen pulled his usual trick of analysis and late attack by slotting his Lotus into fourth one hour into the session – the softly, softly approach playing dividends for Kimi during the first four rounds of the season. Meanwhile, Sutil and di Resta continued their strong showing – making quiet progress in eighth and tenth respectively.

Further down the order, the McLarens of Button and Perez were still struggling in 12th and 13th just ahead of Bottas’s Williams – which in turn was split by the Saubers and the other Williams of Maldonado.

Di Resta stopped on track late in the session with a right rear tyre failure. Again on a medium compound and the same delamination issue that hampered Hamilton in practice in Bahrain – the Scot however was able to stop his Force India before any apparent damage ensued. Pirelli quickly covered the tyre and took it away for inspection, but it wouldn’t be doing their image any good – despite performing the job they’ve been asked.

So it was Vettel followed by Alonso and Webber, but with still very little in it and a lot more left to be revealed…

1 Vettel Red Bull 1’22.808  
2 Alonso Ferrari 1’22.825  
3 Webber Red Bull 1’22.891  
4 Räikkönen Lotus 1’23.030  
5 Massa Ferrari 1’23.110  
6 Hamilton Mercedes 1’23.140  
7 Rosberg Mercedes 1’23.398  
8 Sutil Force India 1’23.840  
9 Vergne Toro Rosso 1’24.058  
10 di Resta Force India 1’24.104  
11 Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’24.175  
12 Button McLaren 1’24.306  
13 Perez McLaren 1’24.854  
14 Bottas Williams 1’24.888  
15 Hülkenberg Sauber 1’25.167  
16 Maldonado Williams 1’25.321  
17 Gutiérrez Sauber 1’25.441  
18 Grosjean Lotus 1’25.851  
19 van der Garde Caterham 1’25.963  
20 Bianchi Marussia 1’26.078  
21 Pic Caterham 1’26.930  
22 Chilton Marussia 1’26.970
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