Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap of FP2, though in reality there was little to choose between Red Bull and McLaren on Friday evening.
As is usually the case, teams split their FP2 running with the first half of the session dominated by running on the medium compound tyre, before a switch to the yellow-banded soft Pirelli as the clock ticked down. The first half of the session saw Vettel and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton swapping fastest laps with Hamilton, as had been the case earlier in the day, ultimately proving to be the quicker, setting a time of 1m42.095s on his tenth lap. Vettel could not match that.
On the soft tyre the advantage was reversed. Vettel shaded Hamilton’s medium time on his first flying lap to take P1 and then set about increasing the lead on his next attempt, with a time of 1:41.751. Though set with more than half an hour of running left, it would remain the fastest lap of the session. Hamilton chipped away at Vettel’s time but could not achieve parity. His best effort was 1:41.919. Through the course of the session the McLaren man had the upper hand on the high-speed corners of the first sector, Vettel was quicker in the twisty third sector and they traded the advantage on the long straights in the middle.
Behind them Jenson Button was third in the second McLaren and Mark Webber fourth for Red Bull – though Webber missed most of the session with a KERS issue. Romain Grosjean was fifth for Lotus on a track where he has prospered in both GP2 and sportscars, while his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was sixth. Behind them came the two Ferraris with Fernando Alonso ahead of Felipe Massa. Pastor Maldonado was ninth for Williams and Sergio Pérez tenth for Sauber.
Outside the top ten, Bruno Senna in the second Williams was best of the rest; Nico Rosberg was 12th for Mercedes, ahead of Nico Hülkenberg’s Force India. Their team-mates, Michael Schumacher and Paul di Resta were 14th and 15th respectively. Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber was 16th quickest ahead of the Toro Rosso pair, for whom Daniel Ricciardo was seven-tenths faster than Jean-Eric Vergne after the Frenchman had a suspension issue that curtailed his running.
At the back the Caterhams, Marussias and HRT’s lined-up two-by-two, Vitaly Petrov ahead of Heikki Kovalainen in 19th and 20th; Timo Glock in front of Charles Pic 21st and 22nd and Pedro de la Rosa quicker than Narain Karthikeyan in 23rd and 24th.
“I think we can be happy with today,” said Vettel afterwards. “Overall we got a good lap on the soft tyres, but in general pace the McLaren’s were quick and seem competitive, so they’re the ones we need to look out for and beat. We need to improve the car overnight to qualify as high as we can tomorrow.”