|© AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Sebastian Vettel laid down the marker to establish himself as a contender for his first win on home soil after he went quickest in the second practice session for the German Grand Prix on Friday.
The German clocked 1 minute 30.416 seconds around the Nurburgring circuit, two-tenths quicker than compatriot Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber. Red Bull was established to have a slight edge over the Mercedes on long run pace.
"I wasn't so happy with the car this morning and Mercedes were quick, but in the afternoon we were in better shape," Vettel said. "We'll see, but so far I am happy."
Title contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso struggled to match the frontrunners with the Lotus driver 0.432 seconds off the pace in fourth, behind teammate Romain Grosjean, while the Spaniard was sixth, six-tenths slower than the top time.
Raikkonen was further troubled during the 90-minute session as radio wasn’t functioning properly with the team struggling to convey messages, which largely appeared to be one sided.
"Kimi if you hear me we suggest you box this lap," was one of the messages heard towards the end of the session which made it evident that the Finn was struggling to complete his programme smoothly.
"Our long run pace wasn’t as good as it could have been as we were running with a different setup which would have taken too long to change back during the session, but we now know which setup works better so it’s not a worry," Raikkonen said.
Alonso had missed the whole of first practice due to an electrical problem in his Ferrari, costing the driver and the team valuable track time. Like Lotus, the Italian squad would be pinning their hopes on Sunday largely on strategy.
Alonso, however, was optimistic pointing out that practice suggested that the car was in better shape than it was at the British GP last weekend.
"Even if there is still a long way to go, in general we seem to have made a step forward and returned to the level of competitiveness which we had prior to Silverstone," he said.
Felipe Massa was seventh and Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest in first practice, was 0.888 seconds behind Vettel’s lap time in eighth. Mercedes struggled particularly on the soft tyres (options) with its durability limited to a few laps less than that of the Red Bull.
"This morning went pretty well and the car felt good, but then we made some changes which didn’t quite work out for us this afternoon," Hamilton said. "I’m sure we will be back on form for P3."
McLaren driver Jenson Button and Paul di Resta of Force India rounded up the top ten on a day devoid of any tyre failures that has dogged Formula 1 since the preceding British GP.
Jules Bianchi did just ten laps - the least by any driver in the session - as the Frenchman was recovering from a mild stomach bug and it was clear that he was not yet back to full strength. Marussia decided to curtail his session to allow him to rest in order to be fully fit for the rest of the weekend.
"It was better to stop and properly recuperate," said Bianchi who was still quicker than teammate Max Chilton. "I hope after a good night’s sleep I will be back on form."
In first practice, reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez had replaced Bianchi, as was scheduled earlier, allowing Bianchi to get a bit more rest before he got in the car in the afternoon.