Berthold Bouman,. F1 Correspondent
A surprise today as Felipe Massa was the fastest man on the Buddh International Circuit during the second free practice session for the Indian Grand Prix. The Brazilian driver took his Ferrari to first spot with a lap time of 1m25.706s, which was over one second faster than the fastest lap set in the first practice session. Sebastian Vettel was second for Red Bull and very close to Massa as the difference was a mere 0.088s. Fernando Alonso took the second Ferrari to third place, while Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber completed the top five this afternoon.
Drivers were in a hurry to get on track; this time to also test the medium silver marked Pirellis, but soon found it was difficult to get them to the right temperature. This time it was Jerome d’Ambrosio who won the race to score the first timed lap and recorded a time of 1m38.299s, not really something to write home about.
Alonso was also quickly on track for his first real outing of the day, this morning the Spaniard had to park his Ferrari on the circuit after running into technical problems. Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Buemi was the first to put a real fast time on the clocks with a lap of 1m29.272s, but not much later Sebastian Vettel took first place with a lap of 1m28.014s.
Turn 6 posed a few problems as Heikki Kovalainen was the first to run wide at this tricky corner, he bounced through the grass but could resume his run without damaging his car. Even more problems for Pastor Maldonado as he lost control at Turn 9 and spun sideways into the gravel trap, and the Venezuelan had to abandon his Williams, as a result the practice session seemed to be over for him, but his car was quickly retrieved by the marshals and brought back to the Williams garage, and Maldonado could resume his runs and finally landed 16th position, right behind his Brazilian team colleague Rubens Barrichello.
Twenty minutes into the session Hamilton set the benchmark with a lap of 1m26.618s, but did his run on the soft and not on the medium tyres. Pirelli had already ahead of the weekend predicted there would be a big gap between to two compounds. Meanwhile it had become very busy on track and many drivers had to abandon their fast lap after an encounter with slower cars.
Vettel proved the soft tyres were a lot faster and put a time of 1m26.492s on the clock, while Turn 6 claimed its next victim in the guise of Nico Rosberg who ended up on the grass but could resume without any apparent damage to his car. Next was Massa who ran wide at Turn 9 while on a run on the soft tyres, he also avoided disaster and could continue his run and after that off-track moment even scored third fastest time.
Vettel, Massa, Jenson Button, Alonso and Hamilton kept dicing for the quickest time, 40 minutes into the session Vettel was fastest as he lapped the circuit in 1m26.320s. Michael Schumacher didn’t seem to be happy with his car and spent some time in the garage to sort out the problems. He soon went out again but came straight back in as he was apparently still not happy with his car, and the seven-times World Champion would finish the afternoon in 21st place, sandwiched between the two Marussia Virgin cars.
Fifty minutes into the session the order was: Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Button, Alonso and Webber. Not much later the session was stopped after Jerome d’Ambrosio had ran wide at Turn 10, hit the kerbs and crashed into the barrier heavily damaging his Marussia Virgin. D’Ambrosio was unhurt and finished the afternoon in 22nd place.
After the session was resumed it was again busy on track and the top six were still dicing for the first place, all marginally improved their lap times. With 20 minutes to go Alonso took second place behind Vettel with a lap of 1m26.216s, but not much later was outpaced by his team mate Massa, who put a time of 1m25.706s on the clock, which proved to be the fastest time of the first day of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
With 15 minutes to go it was time for the final runs of the day, all went out on soft tyres but with topped off fuel tanks to test the race pace, and to gather data for the race itself. Vitaly Petrov was next to have a hairy moment, this time at Turn 5. The Russian spun his Lotus Renault at high speed, but stayed on track and could resume his final run of the day.
With the cars now being heavier, it was no surprise times didn’t improve and Massa ended the session on top of the time sheets. Alonso made an excellent recovery after the fiasco in the morning and finally posted third fastest time.
Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta both put in a solid performance for the Force India team at their home Grand Prix and finished in seventh and ninth position respectively. Also Bruno Senna and Petrov were quick this afternoon and landed eighth and 11th spot for Lotus Renault. Both Sauber drivers were not far behind, and Kamui Kobayashi scored 12th, while Sergio Perez took 13th place.
Sebastien Buemi was the fastest of the Toro Rosso drivers and took a respectable 10th place, while Jaime Alguersuari this time couldn’t impress and finished the day in 14th place.
Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen were again the fastest of the newer teams and took 17th and 18th place, while Nico Rosberg also had a lot of problems and ended up on a very disappointing 19th place, just one place ahead of German team colleague Schumacher. Not a good day for Mercedes GP and they have some work to do to improve their pace for tomorrow’s qualifying.
The only Indian driver of the afternoon session Narain Karthikeyan ended the day carrying the red lantern as he was 24th and last in his HRT, 7.118s slower than Massa.
During this second practice session FIA marshals announced that Hamilton was handed a three-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday, as he had set his quickest lap during a yellow flag situation, the official statement read he had been punished for ‘Ignoring Double waved Yellow Flags at Turn 16 whilst Marshals were in close proximity to the track.’ Perez was also found guilty of the same offence and he also received a three-place grid penalty for Sunday.