The reigning World Champion spent the first hour of FP2 in the garage as Red Bull fixed a water leak that manifested when he left the garage at the start of his first run. He came out in the last half hour of the session and instantly showed his pace with a run that took him to the top of the timesheet, setting a fastest lap of 1:37.718. When the session finished he was eight-tenths up on team-mate Mark Webber, with championship rival Fernando Alonso third for Ferrari. Behind them came the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. The second Ferrari of Felipe Massa was sixth, ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, the Williams of Bruno Senna, Kamui Kobayashi for Sauber and the second Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
The session began without much preamble, drivers getting straight down to business. Rosberg set the standard with 1:39.842. Having spend the morning on general familiarisation and setup, session two saw longer runs. At the halfway point Massa lead with 1:39.061, though that was soon eclipsed by Webber who went sub-1m39s. Many of the messages from the drivers complained of absent grip, particularly at the rear.
The combination of low grip, unfamiliarly and a configuration developed specifically to allow a multitude of lines into several corners, led to the rare sight of a practice collision. Shortly after Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov narrowly avoided colliding with Webber, his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen clashed with Jean-Eric Vergne. The Toro Rosso destroyed a front wing while Kovalainen limped back to the pits with a left-rear puncture.
Meanwhile Vettel finally emerged from his garage, got into a rhythm on the Medium tyre and set a time of 1:37.718, eight-tenths faster than any of his rivals and four-tenths quicker than his best time of the morning. Nobody else looked like matching that.
“We had a bit of a problem this afternoon and so couldn’t run as much as we wanted, but we got two good runs which is important for tomorrow and Sunday,” said Vettel. “I think there were a couple of surprises today in terms of pace, so we’ll see tomorrow. The track will constantly improve – it’s good that we are amongst the guys at the top, now we’ll try to improve the car to make sure we stay there.”
Further back Kimi Räikkönen improved on his morning’s work with 11th quickest for Lotus, followed by Pastor Maldonado for Williams and Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean. Sergio Pérez was next for Sauber, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, again inseparable at Toro Rosso. Behind them Nico Hülkenberg was narrowly ahead of team-mate Paul di Resta as Force India didn’t enjoy a great session, finishing 17th and 18th. Kovalainen, despite his puncture was the fastest of the backmarkers in 19th, ahead of Timo Glock’s Marussia. Then came Petrov in 21st, ahead of Charles Pic in the second Marussia, with Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan 23rd and 24th respectively for HRT.