March 22nd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - The second Free Practice session for Sunday's Malaysia Grand Prix ended with Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the time sheets for Lotus, followed by the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. The session was interrupted by a rain shower, which meant all of the quick lap times were set in the first half ofthe 90-minute session. Fortunately, when the rain came down it was not heavy enough to prevent the cars from running, which gave all of the drivers some time to get used to the wet weather tyres.
At the start of FP2, the drivers streamed out onto the track, knowing that they would likely have their running limited by rain. There were a few different testing programmes being carried out by the various teams, with some looking for lap times to compare the performance of the two dry weather tyre compounds, and some looking at longer high-fuel runs. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg spent the early part of the session at the bottom of the order, six seconds off the pace as they worked on race setups. Later, when they put the medium compound option tyre on their cars, they were quicker, but not as quick as expected, leading Susie Wolff to speculate in the BBC commentary that they could still have a bit more fuel on board than the other drivers.
When the rain started, the track gradually became slippery. The heat in Malaysia meant that there was no immediate effect, as the water simply evaporated off the surface of the circuit, but it did ultimately accumulate, first on the kerbs and then on the tarmac, which resulted in quite a few drivers running wide at various parts of the track, and some spinning. Sauber had a miserable session - first the fire extinguishers in Gutierrez's car went off while he was driving, and later his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg spun at the entrance to the pitlane in the slippery conditions.
When the rain came down, initially all of the drivers made their way back to the pits and waited, but after a while, they started to go out onto the track again, some on intermediate tyres and some on full wet tyres. Lap times were 20 to 25 seconds off the pace while the rain continued, which shows just how slippery the conditions were. Towards the end of FP2, however, the track dried significantly, and Kimi Raikkonen managed a time just 3.677 seconds off his own benchmark time from earlier in the session.
The results firmly established Force India in the top group of teams, Di Resta and Sutil both featuring in the top ten less than a second off the pace and ahead of the McLaren pair of Perez and Button. Unfortunately, a technical issue ended Adrian Sutil's running early as his car was taken apart by the Force India mechanics. He looked relieved to get out of his hot overalls and into lighter clothing, but would no doubt have preferred to carry on driving. McLaren do look to have improved from their disappointing form in Australia, with both cars 1.3 seconds off the pace in FP2 today. Williams, by contrast, are still struggling despite appearing to have improved in FP1. Maldonado and Bottas were 16th and 19th respectively, well off the pace. Such were the struggles of Williams that Marussia's Jules Bianchi set a time a tenth and a half faster than Bottas. There is clearly much to do at Williams.
Bianchi was easily the stand-out driver in the lower half of the field, featuring 1.8 seconds ahead of his own team-mate, Max Chilton, and over a second faster than the Caterham pair of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. Depending on qualifying conditions, Bianchi could be targeting Q2 tomorrow afternoon.
Full results of Free Practice 2:
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.588||0.019||0.019||27|
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.026||0.457||0.041||29|
|8||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.571||1.002||0.123||30|
|10||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:37.788||1.219||0.214||10|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.768||4.199||0.011||32|