Sebastian Vettel again topped free practice for Red Bull Renault as the second 90-minute session ended in a flurry of activity involving some of the biggest names in the field.
Vettel used Pirelli’s Supersoft (red) tyres, making their first appearance at Albert Park, to set a session-best time of 1:25.908 just over halfway through, paring 1.3 seconds off the time that put the World Champion top in the day’s opening free practice.
With less than 10 minutes to go Lewis Hamilton produced the most surprising moment of the day when his Mercedes went off on the left out of Turn 6 and nosed its way into the barrier, eliminating the team’s new recruit. He finished seventh in the session.
Two minutes later it was his teammate Nico Rosberg’s turn to bring his Mercedes to a more controlled halt; the German had already set the session’s third-fastest time.
Right at the end it was local favourite Mark Webber who caught the eye for the wrong reason when his Red Bull half-spun in the short sprint from Turn 13 to 14, the Australian reporting something amiss with the car as it caught him out.
Webber had been the first man to make his way to the top on Supersofts, firing in a 1:26.172 despite a mistake halfway through the 5.303-km lap. He ended it in second place to Vettel as Red Bull, like others, did some expiremental long runs on the softer compound towards the finish.
Besides Hamilton, the only other driver not to see out the session was one of the five newcomers – Giedo van der Garde, who lost his Caterham Renault at Turn 3 and ended up beached in the gravel trap on the left.
Lotus Renault again showed promise with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in fourth and fifth, but McLaren Mercedes fans will be concerned at the end of the first day of the 2013 World Championship season.
Jenson Button and Sergio Perez finished the second session in 11th and 13th places respectively, having been only ninth and 11th in the earlier hit-out.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and eighth, the Brazilian waving angrily at one of the other rookies, Esteban Gutierrez, when the Mexican apparently failed to see the scarlet car as he brought his Sauber Mercedes out of pit lane and into Turn 1.
With Adrian Sutil again doing well to finish ninth for Force India, the man he is replacing, Nico Hulkenberg, rounded out the top 10 in the other Sauber.
This time Dan Ricciardo got the better of the Toro Rosso internal duel, finishing 14th and three places ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.
FP1: Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 1:27.211
FP2: Vettel (Red Bull Renault) 1:25.908