Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on Friday during the second practice session, which proved to be very close between the top three teams. McLaren were experimenting with the F-duct and rear wing setups and were fastest in the first session, while Red Bull had some issues with Mark Webber's car but saw Vettel with the quickest lap with twenty minutes to go in the afternoon. Ferrari also had an impressive performance, finishing second and third.
I think this indicates that the Red Bull seems to be coping in the circuits where it is not designed to do well, but I suspect that McLaren will gain their second pole position of the season there. Ferrari, Renault and Force India may have a chance to get in the top five, and are probably guaranteed to get in to the top ten shootout. Mercedes seem to be doing alright, but they probably shouldn't be too competitive throughout the weekend. Williams may get into the top ten, and Sauber have an outside chance, but despite some upgrades I wouldn't expect the Toro Rosso team to do well.
Even though they are focusing on next year's car, Lotus should be at the top of the new teams, followed by Virgin and Hispania. How Yamamoto is still there instead of Chandhok surprises me, as every race I expect him to come back because Sakon is just not competitive, even by HRT standards. The race looks like it will be pretty unpredictable and I'll be looking forward to it!
Friday practice started with Paul di Resta replacing Adrian Sutil in the Force India team for the first practice session. Michael Schumacher set the fastest time with a 1:31.396 after five minutes, and continued to improve his time at a circuit where he expected to struggle. Jaime Alguersuari joined Schumacher as the only drivers to set laps with an hour remaining, while Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap on his first timed lap with just over a third of the practice session gone.
Kamui Kobayashi demonstrated how high the kerbs are into the first turn by flying into the centre of the track, but the car seemed to be alright, setting a time that was two seconds behind the fastest time of Lewis Hamilton. Paul di Resta, back in a Force India for the first time since Hungary, set his first timed lap which was 4.7 seconds behind. Sebastien Buemi was testing a F-duct on his Toro Rosso, which propelled him into the top ten half way through the session, while Williams driver Rubens Barrichello caused yellow flags to appear as he had a problem which led him to stop on a bit of tarmac just outside the track.
Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time soon afterwards, as the McLaren and Red Bull drivers made up the top four fastest times, while Ferrari joined them as the teams set similar lap times. Di Resta, the Force India driver who is currently second in the DTM championship, looked promising as he found himself sandwiched between Alonso and Kubica in fifth place with 40 minutes to go. Jenson Button beat Vettel to the top spot with 38 minutes to go, as Nico Rosberg reached third place in his Mercedes before being dethroned by Kubica as the top three were Button, Vettel and Kubica. Bruno Senna had a brake fluid leak and he was not sent out for the first 50 minutes of the session, but managed the post the 22nd fastest time. Heikki Kovaleinen and Jarno Trulli had hydraulic problems for the Lotus team and they only went out with 23 minutes left.
Jaime Alguersuari brought out a yellow flag in the final 20 minutes after locking up his wheels and running wide on the parabolica, but he recovered from the gravel to make his way back into the pits. A yellow flag was brought out once again two minutes later as Bruno Senna stopped out on track and his car was pushed off the track by marshals. The top speed through the speed trap was Sebastien Buemi, as he went through at 345km/h in his Toro Rosso. Interestingly and unsurprisingly, only one of the top five drivers on lap time was in the top five through the speed trap. The top five times in first practice were Button with a 1:23.693, Vettel, Hamilton, Kubica and Rosberg.
The second practice session started with Hispania driver Bruno Senna being wheeled off the track as he stopped just outside the pit lane exit. Alguersuari got the fastest lap at the start before it was beaten by Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa and Renault driver Vitaly Petrov. Unlike the start of first practice, many drivers were out to set times, with fifteen drivers setting times in the first seven minutes. Kubica emerged with the fastest time of 1:24.269.
Michael Schumacher went into the gravel trap at the parabolica, setting yellow flags off after 12 minutes. Jenson Button then set the quickest time soon afterwards, and improved on that time, with times already faster than those set earlier in the day. After half an hour, Button was still in possession of the fastest time, followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Renault's Robert Kubica. Despite not having a F-duct, Hamilton set the fastest time after 34 minutes.
After a rather unexciting second half hour, Alguersuari stopped at the side of the track, which was followed by Felipe Massa going off into the gravel trap adjacent to the parabolica, but he managed to avoid the barriers at the side. Alonso then set the fastest lap, before it was beaten by Vettel. Mark Webber had a loss of water pressure and had to sit out the final 19 minutes of practice. After lots of high fuel runs, Vettel still topped the timesheets with a 1:22.839, followed by Alonso, Massa, Hamilton and Button.
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