Vettel continues to set pace in Melbourne
15 March 2013 – Sebastian Vettel increased his advantage over the rest of the field as practice continued in Melbourne on Friday afternoon, producing a time of 1:25.908 on Super Soft tyres. The Red Bull driver led team-mate Mark Webber by 0.264 seconds, while Nico Rosberg rounded out the top three despite a late gearbox issue.
Second practice, which took place under blue skies, gave the drivers their first opportunity to try the Super Soft tyres. This led to faster lap times but also gave the teams confidence that the rubber will last longer than was witnessed in pre-season testing. Vettel, despite being held up on his initial performance run, again took advantage of the situation and heads into Saturday as the comfortable pace-setter.
Aside from a late spin at Turn 13, Webber looked more comfortable on the softer rubber this afternoon to give Red Bull its first one-two of the year. The Australian wound up ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean, with Lotus appearing to be over the worst of its reliability issues. Fernando Alonso, whose F138 showed further signs of significant improvement over its predecessor, occupied the final top six spot.
In the second Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton caused one of the session's more dramatic moments, sliding through the gravel trap at Turn 6 before coming to a halt after gently nudging the tyre wall - just moments before team-mate Rosberg stopped at the side of the track. The Briton's early personal best on the Super Soft tyres was still enough for seventh, however, just in front of Ferrari rival Felipe Massa.
Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg were the final men inside the top ten, denying McLaren's Jenson Button whose team has expressed major concerns over the pace of the MP4-28 chassis. Further back, Jules Bianchi again led the battle between Marussia and Caterham, while Dutchman Giedo van der Garde ended his day in the gravel after losing control of his car at Turn 3 and encountering an anti-stall problem.
Saturday's third and final practice session in Melbourne gets underway at 4.30pm local time (GMT +11) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature