There was no change at the top of the time sheet after Friday's second practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, with Alex Wurz still at the top. The Williams third driver set a best of 1:35.539, less than half a tenth up on his fastest in the morning. BMW Sauber No.3 Sebastian Vettel was second quickest in the afternoon and Honda third driver Anthony Davidson was third.
The track temperature was similar to the morning although a couple of degrees lower, around 27 degrees. Half the field was quickly out for installation laps and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher was first on the time sheet, 1:39.684. Red Bull No.3 Michael Ammermuller slotted in behind then fell to Davidson.
BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was next to the top, 1:39.285, but was quickly replaced by the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, 1:38.142. Super Aguri No.3 Franck Montagny was sixth and Spyker MF1 third driver Alex Premat fifth, while Massa improved to 1:36.599. Red Bull's Robert Doornbos took fifth but was demoted by the Honda of Rubens Barrichello.
Jarno Trulli put his Toyota fourth then was overtaken by Davidson, while Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso and Christijan Albers' Spyker MF1 were also in the top 10. Wurz arrived in third followed by the Honda of Jenson Button, and Scott Speed's Toro Rosso posted ninth. David Coulthard's Red Bull and the Williams of Nico Rosberg were further down the list in 17th and 18th.
Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari in behind teammate Massa, less than half a tenth off, and Mark Webber's Williams posted third on his first flyer. Toro Rosso No.3 Neel Jani and Vettel were at the bottom of the list in 20th and 21st, along wih the Super Aguri of Sakon Yamamoto. Jani improved to 15th and Rosberg to 13th, while Vettel jumped up to seventh.
The Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella appeared in eighth and seventh respectively then Alonso climbed to third. Tiago Monteiro was a comparatively late arrival, his Spyker MF1 posting 25th, while Fisichella gained ground to fourth. Behind the Ferraris and Renaults came Webber, Heidfeld, Button, Wurz, Vettel and Ralf making up the top 10 half way through.
Wurz took the fourth slot and Vettel climbed to sixth then Pedro de la Rosa's McLaren arrived in 10th. Montagny made a startling improvement to 11th, leaving teammates Yamamoto and Takuma Sato at the back along with the Spyker MF1s and the Red Bulls. Premat moved up to 15th but there was little activity and with 20 minutes to go just McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica had yet to run.
The track was declared wet for the remainder of the session and Premat was still on the move, up to 10th. Kubica finally appeared to post 22nd then improved to 17th and Ammermuller made a big jump from the midfield to fifth. With 10 minutes to go Raikkonen got himself out on track and clocked 18th, while Montagny was still making inroads on the times, up to eighth.
Vettel moved to the top, 1:36.491 for a tenth up on Massa, and Davidson and Wurz improved in tandem to fourth and fastest respectively, 1:35.947 for the Williams man. Vettel was on a charge and clocked 1:35.579 for three and a half tenths up on Wurz then right at the end of the session Jani bought out the yellow flags when the Toro Rosso stopped in the first sector.
Wurz managed to sneak in a 1:35.539, just four hundredths quicker than Vettel. "The car responded very well which means the aero update we have brought here is definitely a good step forward," Wurz commented. "In addition to this, both tyres we have chosen for this race are good and I think the tyre choice is going to be difficult for us, depending on how we apply our strategy tomorrow and on Sunday."
Vettel explained the difference in grip between sessions. "The second session was much better than the first, as in this one the track was extremely slippery," he said. "The practice sessions for the support races obviously put down rubber and increased the grip, and we also made a clear step forward with the car. Therefore, in the second session the car felt more familiar and the consistency was back."
Davidson was a last moment improvement to third. "The rain in the second session made it a bit difficult to work with the tyres but it was the same for everyone out there," he remarked. "We're competitive, the car felt nice to drive and we are looking good on the long runs as well so it's a case of so far, so good."
Montagny, meanwhile, had got himself up to seventh which was rather exceptional for a Super Aguri, and Monteiro put Spyker MF1 in the top 10 with ninth. It was a third driver one-two-three but the No.3s aside, it was pretty much a Ferrari and Renault show.
Having said that, while Alonso was just a tenth off Michael, Fisichella was a further second off his teammate and one behind Monteiro. But generally Ferrari and Renault were the fittest looking of the bunch, with Honda not far behind. The BMW and Williams third drivers may have been on the pace but the racers didn't do a great deal of laps so it's hard to judge. McLaren was equally short on track time.
It was a normal Friday -- there were one or two notables thrown into the mix but this early in the weekend it's really too soon to predict how the pecking order might pan out. Massa had an engine problem and the unit needed changed, so he will suffer the grid penalty. Final top eight classification: Wurz, Vettel, Davidson, Massa, M. Schumacher, Alonso, Montagny, Ammermuller.