Sunday, 24 March 2013

Malaysia FP2: Lotus set the standard as Kimi Raikkonen outperforms the field in changing conditions.

The threat of rain looming over second practice was a catalyst for the drivers to get out on track as soon as the green light flicked on. In stark contrast to the minimal lack of action seen in the first half hour of the earlier session, the possibility of a Malaysian downpour prompted all teams to complete runs before the gathering black clouds unleashed their ammunition.

The aim for Ferrari for the second session was to complete more long runs, having spent time doing practice starts and other pit lane tests in the first.  They immediately looked good as Alonso recorded a 137.3. Not good enough however, to prevent Kimi Raikkonen marginally trumping it a few minutes later with a 137.0.  Going in to this race it was the aim of Lewis Hamilton to build on the positive start experienced in Australia, however the pace of the Mercedes showed the foundations may have crumbled, as his first flying lap achieved a 1.44.1, slightly behind that of his team mate on a 1.43.7.  Hamilton later improved on this time, but was still left trailing by a second.    

Kimi sets fastest time.  Photo:

Ferrari set another fastest time twenty minutes into the session with a 1.36.6 from Massa on medium tyres, but with the Red Bull looking mighty through the fast corners, Sebastian Vettel  struck,  going a few tenths faster. 

With the first splattering of rain being felt half an hour in, exploration of tyre behaviour in the wet became the story of the session.  When rain began to fall steadily, drivers used the opportunity to explore different racing lines and test how far they could push their slicks on a moist track.  Nico Hulkenberg discovered the limits of his tyres, spinning the car by the entrance to the pit lane, his second incident of the session.  Finding reverse, he managed to move off the racing line avoiding an oncoming Sebastian Vettel, and a red flag situation. 

Rain gave the teams a chance to try out wet set ups.

With the chance to delve into the nature of the full wet and intermediate compound tyres, Gutierrez left the pits on the former and Perez on the latter with 26 minutes left on the clock.  Being unable to gain a suitable amount of grip on wet tyres, Gutierrez had a momentary excursion from the track.  Wrestling it back on, he headed for the pits to change to intermediates.  Likewise, Perez had a trip across the gravel after slipping on a white line.
The Ferraris were impressive on the damp track with a 1.53.6 from Alonso, compared with a 1.55.8 from Kimi Raikkonen.    Heat and humidity in Malaysia causes the track to dry quickly so it wasn’t long before cars emerged on slick tyres.  The track stayed patchy as Webber experienced on the final turn, when lack of grip caused a fleeting loss of control under braking. 
As the track continued to dry, Grosjean took a trip across the grass three minutes from the end of the session while his team mate Kimi posted a 1.40.0 on medium tyres.  

After his victory in Melbourne, Kimi expressed a wish for a continuation in performance.  Achieving the fastest time on a dry track, second fastest on a damp track and fastest on a drying track, his wish is on the road to being granted.  Although closely followed by Red Bull and Ferrari, Lotus and Kimi are setting the standard.  

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