Heikki Kovalainen provided some encouragement for McLaren by pacing the opening day of the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park, but even the most naive of insiders will accept that the Finn was aided by the strategy of others.
Kovalainen, who needs a boost to his own fortunes after a tough start to the 2009 campaign, posted a 1min 28.841secs best midway through the second 90-minute session of the day, and remained unbeaten to the chequered flag courtesy of a combination of fluctuating temperatures and the policy of rival teams to concentrate on race preparation rather than outright speed.
Fernando Alonso similarly benefited to haul his Renault into second spot overall, also dipping under Nico Rosberg's morning best, and the bulk of field generally improved, albeit not by much in most cases. Rosberg held onto third across the two sessions, but was three-tenths slower second time around, placing seventh in FP2.
Perhaps gaining more comfort than even Kovalainen would be Robert Kubica, who managed to lift BMW Sauber from the doldrums of recent races into third spot in the session. The Germano-Swiss team is running a series of aero updates this weekend - including its first attempt at a multi-deck diffuser - but had languished in 16th and 17th places in FP1. Again, the Pole's effort may have been due to conditions, light fuel or whatever, but it will be interesting to monitor progress on day two.
Behind Kubica, sometime pacesetter Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastian Vettel, Jarno Trulli, Rosberg, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber and Nelson Piquet Jr rounded out the top ten, despite the Red Bull driver grinding to a half mid-session with suspected hydraulic or gearbox problems. Points leader Jenson Button was again outside the top ten, placing twelfth in session, and 14th overall, despite marginally improving his best lap.
Button was, however, among the few who did not appear to have much problem with the track. Although there was more grip second time around, the excursions continued, with world champion Lewis Hamilton leading the way with two spin - at turns one and ten - in quick succession. Alonso, Nakajima, Piquet, Giancarlo Fisichella, Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Bourdais and Adrian Sutil all took time-consuming detours.
Joining Rosberg in relying on FP1 times in the overall scheme of things were Hamilton (eighth overall), Massa (tenth), Raikkonen (eleventh) and Sutil (17th), with the Force India-mounted German the last driver around a second from Kovalainen's benchmark.