Rain also dominated the second Friday practice, but for a final ten minutes of furious action with dry tyres on a nearly dry track. In the end, Michael Schumacher (1:29.183) led a fastest five of Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, and Kamui Kobayashi, all with times set in the furious final ten minutes of the ninety-minute session. Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were tenth and eleventh fastest, with McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton fifteenth and sixteenth. Rain fell heavily between the two practices and left standing water on the circuit for the start of practice. However, the percentage of dramatic moments came most heavily at the end, with fast times and amazing saves as the checkers flew.
Button (1:27.560) led Hamilton, Schumacher, Alonso, and Webber in the first session in Melbourne. It was a slow start to 2012, as there was rain before the session began and teams took their sweet time getting going on the damp track. There were no major incidents, with just Massa causing yellow flags as he beached his Ferrari in the gravel in the second half of the session. Neither HRT set a time, with de la Rosa not even leaving the garage in the first session. Still, the top five were separated by a second. Interestingly, though not conclusively, Vettel was only eleventh fastest, with Raikkonen ninth fastest after spending much of the session in the garage, working on steering feel in his Lotus.
It rained heavily between the sessions, with the precipitation just beginning to ease minutes before the second Friday practice began in the Australian afternoon. Then, as it began, the rain began again, and no one left their garages to brave the conditions. Perez was the fist to make a go of it, nearly five minutes in. There was bright sunlight, dark clouds, and standing water leaving a rainbow in the rooster trail behind the Mexican. Teammate Kobayashi soon joined him, then the Toro Rosso boys did so as well. Vergne set the first time (1:52.220) just before ten minutes passed in the session. He soon bettered his time as Ricciardo also set his first time. Karthikeyan took the HRT out for two whole laps, sliding and twitching his way through them.
Fifteen minutes into the session, only Ricciardo and Vergne posted times, along with a slow lap from the Indian driver. A few more cars had trickled their way around the track without setting times. Twenty minutes into the session, Vergne led Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Maldonando, and Karthikeyan as the six drivers with timed laps. The track was still wet and difficult in spite of the sunshine, and the majority of drivers sat waiting in their garages. Kobayashi missed out on fastest with his first lap by just .004s, running wide onto the grass and gravel at Turn 1 after completing the lap.
1 Hour Remaining:
Thirty minutes into the session it was still rather damp. Caterham continued last season’s frivolity on Twitter, “It’s ok, you can keep watching the McLaren drive around for now. We’re still not venturing out yet.” By that point, Kobayashi had had his rally moment, Ricciardo had spun dramatically between Turn 11 and Turn 12, and Maldonado went well wide at Turn 3. Kobayashi (1:45.117) led the timesheets. Hulkenberg (+1.682), Vergne, Perez, Button, Ricciardo, Maldonado, and Karthikeyan had also set times. Perez barely missed the barrier at Turn 14, having bumped his way through the gravel after correcting a slide. Meanwhile, Alonso had begun his first run, the first run of the session on inters. He went straight to the top with his DRS enabled with a lap barely less than three seconds faster then Kobayashi.
Also on inters, Massa next took the top spot with a lap two tenths faster than his teammate. As the track continued to dry out, Di Resta and Webber each went faster than Kobayashi, splitting the Ferrari drivers from the rest of the field. Maldonado (1:40.721), then Button (1:39.497) were the next to go fastest as all times continued to drop on the improving track. Still, only twelve drivers had set times nearing the halfway point of the session.
Button (1:37.989) continued to lead at halfway, ahead of Maldonado, Vergne, Vettel, Ricciardo, Webber, Massa, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Di Resta, Glock, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Perez, and Karthikeyan. Moments later, Maldonado continued his fast lap duel with Button even as Vettel’s time improved to third. Schumacher next took the top honors as a dry line formed. Webber joined the ranks of drivers to cut Turn 1, gathering grass as he did so, then so Kovalainen rather more sideways.
Hamilton and both Lotus drivers remained without a single lap with forty minutes remaining, with the former looking collected standing in the garage. Schumacher was set to be on another session fastest lap but lost the rear and half a second in the damp. Perez (1:37.189) overtook the German’s laptime then pitted, leaving just Glock alone on the track as the final half hour of Friday running approached.
30 Minutes Remaining:
As that marker approached, there were yellow flags in the final sector, as a sign marking pit in sat in the middle of the racing line at Turn 16. Perez led Schumahcer, Maldonado, Vettel, Button, Ricciardo, Vergne, Webber, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Kovalainen, Glock, Massa, Alonso, Di Resta, Pic, Kobayashi, and Karthikeyan an hour into the session. Senna and de la Rosa had set no times but had completed installation laps while Hamilton and the Lotus drivers remained entirely in the garage. Everyone else was also in the garage, waiting to switch to slick tyres.
Karthikeyan and HRT pulled the trigger on dry tyres first (on the harder compound), with just under twenty-five minutes to go. That decision led to a moment or two for the Indian driver. Vergne joined him five minutes later, with Ricciardo then Vettel also joining a bit later. They heralded a mass exodus from the pits for the final fifteen minutes of the session. Button, Vettel, and Grosjean (and later Raikkonen) were on the softer compound while the rest of the drivers were on the harder compound. The reigning champion went straight to the top, only to be displaced by Grosjean (1:36.190), who went nearly eight tenths faster.
10 Minutes Remaining:
The final ten minutes were fast and furious on the timing as the track continued to dry and rubber in. Di Resta (1:32.302) led as they began, with Kovalainen, Massa, Vettel, Webber, Grosjean, Button, Glock, Maldonado, and Hamilton making the ever-changing top ten. The Scot continued to lead, improving his time by seven tenths, only to fall to a Schumacher lap nearly a full second quicker with six minutes remaining. Another German went fastest next as Hulkenberg put the Force India back on top and the fast lap into the 1:29s. Alonso and Perez also slid into the top three while Vettel pushed hard on his way around the circuit. Maldonado caused some local yellows with a wiggle and straight-on move at Turn 15 that paused the fast times for a moment.
Things were furious in the final minute or so, as Kovalainen went splashing through the soggy grass and gravel, then Kobayashi completely lost the Sauber across the start/finish. Somehow he collected the car despite it’s fishtailing along the grass and barriers and stopped it broadside in front of no one without damaging more than the tires. After the flag, Schumacher posted the fastest lap and kept Mercedes power on top for both Friday sessions.
Final Times for FP2, 2012 Australian Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Michael Schmacher Mercedes 1:29.183 16 2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:29.292 0.109 19 3. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:30.199 1.016 23 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:30.341 1.158 13 5. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:30.709 1.526 14 6. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:31.466 2.283 13 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:31.505 2.322 14 8. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:31.932 2.749 16 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.184 3.001 17 10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:32.194 3.011 19 11. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:32.296 3.113 20 12. Timo Glock Marussia 1:32.632 3.449 17 13. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:32.767 3.584 15 14. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:32.822 3.639 11 15. Jenson Button McLaren 1:33.039 3.856 18 16. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:33.252 4.069 11 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:34.108 4.925 21 18. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:34.275 5.092 7 19. Bruno Senna Wiliams 1:34.312 5.129 17 20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:34.485 5.302 29 21. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:34.604 5.421 31 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:34.770 5.587 13 23. Narian Karthikeyan HRT 1:42.627 13.444 16 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT n/t n/t 1