Michael Schumacher (1:35.973) set the fastest time for the second practice session fo the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix weekend, beating Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, and Nico Rosberg to the honor. Though the smog and humidity had not lifted after the first session, the afternoon practice fared far better in track dryness. Teams were able to get straight to work and the session progressed normally with race set up runs. A few drivers had some off and on moments, with Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez particularly featured on replays whilst locking up. Timo Glock had the only incident of the day, after appearing to have his nose and front wing disengage as he entered Turn 1, forcing the German to go skittering across the gravel and into the tyre barrier.
Hamilton (1:37.106) may have led the first Friday practice by more than a second over Rosberg, but Webber was on top through all but the final ten minutes of the drizzly and gripless session. Most teams spent most of the ninety minutes tucked safely away in the garage waiting for better conditions, but none arrived. Hamilton, Button, and Alonso (the latter two finished eighth and eleventh fastest, respectively) did not even set times until the final five minutes. Still, there were no accidents and shockingly few moments of twitchiness from the cars, mainly as a note of how little running actually occurred. Despite drawing first blood, China has not proven particularly fantastic for Hamilton, who will likely lose five places on the starting grid due to a gearbox change. In other news, F1 will be going to Bahrain and Lotus’ formal protest of the Mercedes rear was unanimously denied by the stewards.
The weather had not much improved in either warmth or humidity as the second session began, nor had Bernie Ecclestone’s humor. Asked if he would be going to Bahrain next week, the head honcho responded, “What [or that’s] a stupid question. You’ll get a stupid answer. What do you think?” As in the morning, no one was lined up and ready to get going, though Kovalainen took the first leapt onto the track, soon followed by Karthikeyan. Quickly, though, half of the field was taking advantage of the better visibility. Kovalainen (1:46.382) soon set the first time, less than five minutes into the session. Karthikeyan was nearly a second and a half faster on his first timed lap, but Senna was the early leader with a 1:41.070. Five minutes in, all drivers barring Kobayashi had posted at least an installation lap and seven drivers had posted times.
The times came fast in the first ten minutes as teams got straight to work on the properly dry track. Though many drivers led for a moment or two, Hamilton (1:36.814) held the fastest time at ten minutes in, with Rosberg, Button, Ricciardo, Schumacher, Vettel, Kobayashi, Di Resta, and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten. Just a couple of minutes later, only Alonso and de la Rosa lacked times, though both Spaniards had completed multiple installation laps. Alonso’s first time was put him eleventh fastest. Fifteen minutes in, most of the drivers were back in the garage. Raikkonen, though, continued to lap after DRS issues in the morning session. Alonso also remained out, quietly moving up to sixth fastest. He pitted as a couple of other drivers returned to the track, starting the second wave of laps and race set-up work. Meanwhile, Ricciardo had been complaining of issues with his power steering. Giorgio Ascanelli informed him, “I can fix it, but it will take three months.”
1 Hour Remaining:
Hamilton led Rosberg, Kobayashi, Vettel, and Schumacher as the first third of the session ended. Half of the drivers were lapping, but there were few fastest sectors happening as the teams had settled into typical Friday afternoon running. Only Kobayashi had made any major moves, popping up to third fastest on the softer tyre just as the session reached the hour remaining mark. A few minutes later, Vettel made his own mark while other drivers spent their time sliding off and back onto the track. Vettel (1:36.578) went fastest of all on the softer tyre, but Hamilton had already begun to on his own set of the harder tyre. He did not complete the lap, leaving Vettel the spoils.
Vettel improved his time two laps later, while teammate Webber moved up to third fastest. Both continued on fast runs as the halfway point approached. The Australian soon went second fastest as most of the top ten returned to the garage. At halfway, Vettel (1:36.160) led Webber, Hamilton, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Perez, Alonso, Ricciardo, and Button as the top ten. Soon thereafter, Glock went into the tyre wall at T1. Though he seemed a bit slow to respond on the radio and complained of pain in his hands, as well as holding his wrist as he walked across the gravel, Glock appeared generally unhurt. There was not much footage of his accident, but it did appear that the front wing and nose cone came off well before he hit the wall sideways, as they were lying in the middle of the gravel trap.
Once the yellow ended and the marshals cleared the Marussia, Alonso set off on a faster lap, as did Schumacher. Though the Spaniard improved his time, he did not his position. The German fared far better, going fastest of all by nearly two tenths over Vettel. Hamilton, too, moved up to go faster than Vettel, but he was just .02s faster than his contemporary. Meanwhile, Massa continued to complain of “a strange feeling” and lack of grip in multiple messaged back to Rob Smedley in the Ferrari garage. He was only seventeenth fastest on the softer tyre.
30 Minutes Remaining:
Schumacher (1:35.973) continued to lead over the rest of the fastest ten: Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Button, Kobayashi, Alonso, Perez, and Di Resta. Most drivers were again back to their garages with twenty to go. Perez’s Sauber looked terribly unhealthy, with a massive vibration through the front wing and suspension on the back straight. Timing and scoring showed plenty of yellow and white sector times with just fifteen minutes remaining, as drivers continued on with long runs.
10 Minutes Remaining:
Schumacher was still fastest, with Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Button, Kobayashi, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, and Alonso the top ten. Meanwhile, Perez continued to force scary replays, locking up all four tyres into the T14 hairpin with a large puff of tyre smoke and four major flat spots. With just three minutes to go, only Perez remained in the garage. On the radio, Smedley informed Massa that Alonso was not braking for T3, indicating that he ought not be doing so either. In the end, the order and times did not change in the final minutes of the session.
Final Times for FP2, 2012 Chinese Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:35.973 32 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:36.145 0.172 29 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36. 160 0.187 27 4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36. 433 0.460 24 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36. 617 0.644 31 6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:36. 711 0.738 28 7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:36.956 0.983 28 8. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:36.966 0.993 31 9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:37.191 1.218 31 10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.316 1.343 32 11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:37.417 1.444 22 12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:37.616 1.643 33 13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:37.836 1.863 30 14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:37.930 1.957 32 15. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:37.972 1.999 26 16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:38.176 2.203 35 17. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.293 2.320 31 18. Bruno Senna Williams 1:38.783 2.810 37 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:38.990 3.017 36 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:39.346 3.373 20 21. Timo Glock Marussia 1:39.651 3.678 15 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:40.343 4.370 25 23. Charles Pic Marussia 1:40.753 4.780 30 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:41.125 5.152 26