Felipe Massa surprised the F1 paddock by topping the times in the second free practice session of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix weekend, ending the day as the fastest man around the spectacular new Buddh International Circuit.
The Brazilian, who has yet to finish higher than fifth in a difficult campaign for Ferrari, sported a new front wing on his car for much of the 90-minute session and, despite (or maybe because of) the unit appearing to oscillate wildly, sending up showers of sparks whenever it touched the tarmac, he recorded a 1min 25.706secs lap that shaded Lewis Hamilton's FP1 benchmark by over a second.
With team-mate Fernando Alonso in third place overall, despite the engine problem that stranded him trackside in FP1, the Prancing Horse appears to have a little more spring in its step than in recent races and, along with McLaren and Red Bull, could contribute to a three-way fight for supremacy on Sunday, with Massa already predicting a lot of overtaking for the race.
Alonso was just 0.224secs off his team-mate's pace after completing 34 laps - not the highest of the session, but well up the order - and helped to sandwich world champion Sebastian Vettel in second spot. The Red Bull driver again appeared on course to top the timesheets before Massa's improvement, but ended the day just 0.088secs adrift of the Brazilian. Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was fifth fastest, behind FP1 pacesetter Hamilton, the final two drivers within a second of the pace.
Jenson Button rounded out a top six filled by the expected names, and was comfortably six-tenths clear of seventh-fastest Adrian Sutil, who again gave the Indian fans something to cheer, by pushing Vijay Mallya's Force India team into the top ten. He was joined on this occasion by rookie team-mate Paul di Resta, who clocked the ninth-best time, sandwiching the hard-working Bruno Senna in P8. Sebastien Buemi rounded out the top ten for Toro Rosso, narrowly ahead of Vitaly Petrov and Kamui Kobayashi as Renault and Sauber also hinted at a role in the battle for the minor places.
The session was again red-flagged, this time for an accident rather than a canine interloper, as Marussia Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio lost his car over the kerbs and backed heavily into the turn twelve wall. Although the Belgian was unhurt, his car was going nowhere, much like that of Pastor Maldonado, who beached his Williams in the gravel in the opening minutes. The Venezuelan at least got his mount returned to the pits in time to rejoin the session, eventually finishing 16th fastest with 24 laps under his belt.
With a lot of drivers switching to distance work after early laps on the prime 'soft' compound, there was little real action at the top of the times, but both Mercedes drivers were notable for sitting well below their expected positions. Both in the top ten before lunch, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher could be found back in 19th and 21st positions respectively when the chequered flag fell for a second time, putting them just ahead of d'Ambrosio and the hapless HRTs of Daniel Ricciardo and Narain Karthikeyan.