After a false start for 2014 pacesetters Mercedes AMG in the first session this morning, Free Practice Two saw the ‘Silver Arrows’ exercise their advantage and lock out the top two positions with Lewis Hamilton leading team-mate Nico Rosberg by just over 0.1 seconds.
In the early phase of the afternoon running as teams and drivers fettled their pace on the soft tyre compound and low fuel it was Rosberg who initially set the pace, but Hamilton delivered a one-off flyer that elevated him above the German before the team moved on to race simulations in preparation for Sunday’s main event. It was the morning’s fastest man, Fernando Alonso, who came closest to the rampant F1W05’s by clocking a 1:30:132 in his Ferrari, with reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel 4th and McLaren’s Jenson Button 5th.
With the long fuel runs under way it quickly became apparent that Mercedes’ advantage was in no danger of disappearing, though Williams exhibited some very strong pace provided by Valtteri Bottas who consistenly lapped in the 1:33:4’s, just a fraction behind the pace of Rosberg who was the quicker of the two Merc men in race trim. Ferrari seemed unable to match their rival’s race pace but proved a near-match for McLaren, the British team struggling with a 0.5 deficit in the final sector that destroyed any hopes of Button and team-mate Kevin Magnussen gaining ground on their front-running engine partners. However there was a surprise in store for all as it was Vettel in the troublesome Red Bull RB10 that provided the benchmark, hurling himself round in a 1:32:9 to increase speculation that the Milton Keynes-based team’s weekend might not be as disastrous as first imagined.
There was discord at Red Bull ‘B Team’ Toro Rosso however as Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat managed to get himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons; repeating his blocking antics that were on display in his Free Practice outing in Austin last year against Button he showed the same worrying lack of awareness when he impeded Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo all in short order and drew the wrath of several frustrated drivers.
As the session drew to a close there was a brief yellow flag interruption when Nico Hulkenberg dropped a wheel onto the grass at the approach to turn eight and became bogged down in the gravel, a mistake that coincided with a crash for Romain Grosjean who was the victim of snap understeer and scraped his Lotus E22 along the wall at turn six and also ended up in the gravel. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado did not manage to set a lap time after his FP1 shenanigans, while Caterham duo Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson again sat out the session.
CLASSIFICATION – FREE PRACTICE TWO – 2014 AUSTRALIAN GP
(Official FIA Timing Sheet)