Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time of the day in the second free practice session for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
The Red Bull driver, running an upgraded rear-end package on the RB8 that featured resculpted sidepods and new rear wing endplates, made the most of the new additions to go quickest with a 1m39.335s, 0.131sec ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi.
Session one pacesetter Pastor Maldonado (Williams) began the bidding six minutes into the session with a 1m41.133s, but that time was never likely to last long and within a minute Kobayashi had moved ahead in the Sauber.
Jenson Button's McLaren then went top with a 1m40.744s before improving that to a 1m40.522s just before the quarter hour mark. Lewis Hamilton quickly moved ahead with a 1m40.397s and that stood for nearly 10 minutes before the rapid-looking Mercedes of Michael Schumacher emerged from the pits and recorded a 1m40.169s.
Having set that time, Schumacher was straight on the radio complaining of drive issues. It was not a big problem, though, as he was back on track within 10 minutes.
Toward the halfway mark, Button slapped on a set of soft Pirellis and became the first man to dip below 1m40s with a 1m39.990s. That though was put into context when Nico Rosberg eclipsed the time on the eighth lap of his own prime medium tire run.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had just moved to the top of the times (1m39.733s), again on softs, when Pedro de la Rosa hit the barriers hard. Having clattered the kerbs at Turn 13, the left front of the HRT was significantly damaged as it went in front on into the tire barrier.
There was a brief lull as the circuit was cleared before Schumacher emerged from the pits and set a time of 1m39.601s. It was then, finally, that Vettel produced his 1m39.334s flyer, which settled the matter, as teams switched to long-run modes and gathered degradation data. Behind Vettel, Hulkenberg and Kobayashi snuck ahead of Schumacher with two very impressive laps that hinted at the potential for another mixed up grid on Saturday.
Bruno Senna was fifth fastest, to further enhance the view that Williams is a contender in Valencia ahead of Hulkenberg's Force India teammate Paul di Resta. Romain Grosjean was the fastest Lotus driver in seventh ahead of Mark Webber and Rosberg. That meant that both McLaren drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa all loitered outside the top 10 – although the top 15 runners were covered by just 0.91sec.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.334 33
2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.465s + 0.131 32
3. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.595s + 0.261 20
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m39.601s + 0.267 27
5. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m39.644s + 0.310 34
6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.700s + 0.366 32
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.733s + 0.399 34
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m39.868s + 0.534 33
9. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.901s + 0.567 30
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.926s + 0.592 32
11. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m39.945s + 0.611 34
12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.990s + 0.656 33
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m40.075s + 0.741 29
14. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m40.147s + 0.813 25
15. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.244s + 0.910 35
16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.511s + 1.177 29
17. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m40.963s + 1.629 20
18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.121s + 1.787 32
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m41.197s + 1.863 38
20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.263s + 1.929 29
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.424s + 3.090 21
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m42.958s + 3.624 30
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m44.201s + 4.867 33
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m44.260s + 4.926 12
All Timing Unofficial