Sebastian Vettel showed no signs of letting up the stranglehold he has placed on F1 so far in 2011, topping both free practice sessions on the opening day of the Chinese Grand Prix to mark himself out as favourite for victory on Sunday.
The German, having dominated the opening 90-minute session around the Shanghai International Circuit, returned to the top of the timesheets in the afternoon, albeit with a reduced margin over his nearest pursuer. Where that had been Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber during the early session, McLaren again provided the nearest opposition to RBR in the second, with Lewis Hamilton ended the day just over a tenth adrift of Vettel's 1min 37.688secs benchmark.
The Briton, and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, both took turns to top the times - as they had in the morning - but ultimately lost out to the superior pace of the RB7, even though Webber was unable to give the Milton Keynes team another 1-2 after finishing only tenth fastest. Button was a tenth slower than Hamilton, as he had been during the morning session, while Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher showed improved pace after lunch to fill out the top five.
Between Schumacher and Webber came Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil and Renault colleagues Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov, but there was no top ten place for Ferrari 'number one' Fernando Alonso, who struggled with hydraulic issues on the already troubled F150 Italia and had to settle for 14th, behind Kamui Kobayashi, Pastor Maldonado and Sebastien Buemi.
There were also woes for Paul di Resta, who was unable to capitalise on getting two Friday sessions for the first time in his F1 career when fuel pressure problems sidelined his Force India without a lap in the books, while the slippery surface accounted for a number of incidents, not least for Vettel, Kobayashi and Heidfeld, the German veteran suffering his second meeting with the barriers in as many sessions, albeit one he could this time recover from.
Jaime Alguersuari was 15th fastest, ahead of Rubens Barrichello, while Sergio Perez dropped from his lofty first session position of seventh despite taking over a second off his time.Team Lotus rounded out the top ten, with Heikki Kovalainen half a second off the Mexican and team-mate Jarno Trulli another second further back after taking over the second car from reserve Luiz Razia. Contrary to pre-race assertions from technical chief Mike Gascoyne, however, there was no appearance from test driver Davide Valsecchi.
Perhaps the surprise of the two sessions came from HRT, which managed to beat Virgin both before and after the midday break. While Tonio Liuzzi was only able to complete a single flying lap right at the end of the afternoon, he still took half a second off his previous base, but Narain Karthikeyan completed the entire 90 minutes and carved into his morning benchmark to end the day on 1min 42.902secs. Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock, meanwhile, wound up 22nd and 23rd in the second session - and 25th and 26th overall - after struggling with gremlins throughout.
To see the FP2 lap times in full, click here
To see the opening day's combined lap times in full, click here