November 1st, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - It was advantage Red Bull in second practice in Abu Dhabi, as four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel led the way ahead of his team-mate, Mark Webber. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest for Mercedes.
Free Practice 2 was quite a busy session, with most drivers covering at least 30 laps, and some doing more than 40 - Kimi Raikkonen circulated 42 times, the most of any driver. The session also saw quite a few on-track incidents.
Max Chilton of Marussi and Giedo van der Garde of Caterham each had a spin, but both managed to get going again although in Chilton's eagerness to spin his car back around he almost ended up facing the wrong way again.
Paul Di Resta had a strange problem, when his left front tyre appeared to deflate under braking at the end of the long back straight. He crawled back to the pits with sparks flying from the leading edge of the floor of his Force India due the reduced front ride height on the car. It turned out that the rim of his left front tyre had been damaged by part of the front suspension assembly and that had caused the tyre to deflate. There was no problem with the tyre itself at all.
Romain Grosjean had his own unusual failure, when his front-right brake disc exploded. It's a failure that sometimes happens towards the end of a race run in very hot conditions on a track with lots of heavy braking zones, but it's surprising to see during practice. The obvious explanation is that it must have been a failure of the material of the disc, rather than it simply being the end of the life of the part, but that's not necessarily the case. It could be that the disc has been run in previous sessions and that Lotus were planning to change it after practice anyway.
Grosjean made it back to the pits after the failure, and Lotus made the necessary changes. He returned to the track, but with eight minutes to go came back in and got out of the car, presumably due to a technical problem on his Lotus.
Red Bull are looking extremely strong after Free Practice 2, particularly in terms of their long-run pace. Vettel and Webber were consistently quicker than everyone else on heavy fuel, and while it's difficult to know what fuel loads the cars are running, their recent form suggests that their apparent pace advantage is a real one.
If Vettel wins on Sunday, he will equal Michael Schumacher's personal best of seven wins in a row. The record is nine, held by Alberto Ascari from 1952-53. Vettel could possibly equal that this season, but it would take until the first race of 2014 for him to beat it, assuming of course he wins the remaining three races this season.
After second practice, Lotus and Mercedes again look like they will be fighting over the best-of-the-rest status this weekend. Ferrari were well down the times again, finishing up 8th (Alonso) and 10th (Massa) in FP2. McLaren are having a reasonable showing in Abu Dhabi. Sergio Perez and Jenson Button set the sixth and seventh fastest times in FP2, and will be looking to carry that form into tomorrow's qualifying session.
Free Practice 2 saw the first appearance of the soft compound Pirelli tyre, which is this weekend's option tyre. As in India, it appears to be wearing quite quickly, although not as badly as last weekend. It will certainly be the tyre of choice for qualifying, as the gap in time between the two compounds is a whopping 1.5 seconds or so. The question for Sunday will be: who can make the soft tyre last long enough at the beginning of the race to run a one-stop strategy? If it can be done, it could well result in a race victory.
Full results from Free Practice 2:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:41.335||35|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:41.490||0.155||32|
|13||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.806||1.471||27|
|15||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:42.998||1.663||27|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:44.138||2.803||35|