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Rain wreaks havoc in Oz

2012-03-16 10:02

QUICKEST IN THE WET: Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher was quickest on the damp Albert Park circuit, besting Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg by just over a tenth of a second.

MELBOURNE, Australia - Michael Schumacher rolled back the years as he ended the second practice session on top for the first time since returning from retirement in 2010, ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Schumacher clocked a best lap of one minute and 29.183 seconds in his Mercedes in the final minute of a dramatic day's action at a rain-hit Albert Park.

The lap pushed him ahead of Nico Hulkenberg by one-tenth of a second, the Force India driver having been on top for most of a closely-fought final 10 minutes.

It was the first time Schumacher had finished a practice day on top of the standings since he returned from retirement. He was quickest in the first practice in Belgium 2011, before being overhauled in the later session.


Mercedes boss Ross Brawn said: "We're in much better shape here now than 12 months ago and we've got a stronger bed of foundation.

"All our resources are now being put into improving the performance of the car, whereas 12 months ago there was all sorts of things wrong with the car, so we were distracted. I think this performance proves what I mean, and it is wonderful for Michael of course," he said.

Schumacher had retired after the 2006 season after clocking up 91 victories in a record-breaking career.

Sauber's Sergio Perez was third ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Japan's Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber.

Most of the leading drivers opted to jump on to soft tyres in the final minutes as the track dried out, conditions that led to the unexpected mix-up in the final result.

This saw Force India's Paul Di Resta take sixth and Ferrari's Felipe Massa in seventh ahead of Caterhams' Heikki Kovalainen and ninth-placed Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes.

All this left defending double world champion Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull down in 10th ahead of team mate Mark Webber.

The Jenson Button, who was fastest in the earlier opening session, wound up in 15th for McLaren ahead of British team mate Lewis Hamilton.

Returning champion Kimi Raikkonen was 18th for Lotus at the end of his first day back after two years out of Formula 1.

After a rain-hit opening session, the second 90 minutes of track action was preceded by another heavy storm.

This led to a slow start and it was half an hour before any decent times were recorded in front of an impressive attendance of 70500 - 2000 up on 2011 - as various drivers attempted to test the conditions.

This produced a list of different men at the top of the standings and various spinning cars, including local hero Webber in his Red Bull.

HRT had some good news when Pedro de la Rosa managed to glide out of the pits for the first time in his car, built up and finished by the team after an all-night shift by the mechanics.

In the wet conditions, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo trumped rookie Jean-Eric Vergne. Then Ricciardo spun and Williams' Pastor Maldonado set the pace.

Stay with Wheels24 for the Formula 1 weekend.

Second free practice times from the 2012 Australian F1 GP at Albert Park in Melbourne
1 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min29.183
2 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min29.292
3 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min30.199
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min30.341
5 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Ferrari 1min30.709
6 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min31.466
7 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min31.505
8 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min31.932
9 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min32.184
10 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull1min32.194
11 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min32.296
12 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min32.632
13 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min32.767
14 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min32.822
15 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min33.039
16 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min33.252
17 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min34.108
18 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min34.275
19 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min34.312
20 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min34.485
21 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min34.604
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min34.770
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min42.627
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT N/A

First free practice times
1 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min27.560
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min27.805
3 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min28.235
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min28.360
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min28.467
6 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min28.683
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min28.908
8 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min29.415
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min29.565
10 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min29.722
11 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min29.790
12 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min29.865
13 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min29.881
14 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min29.953
15 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min30.124
16 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min30.515
17 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min30.586
18 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min30.743
19 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min31.178
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min31.983
21 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min34.730
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min40.256
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT


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