Brawn are quietly confident about their weekend after two solid practice sessions that saw a subdued performance from title rivals Red Bull as well as fireworks from potential polesitters Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
The action-packed sessions saw first Rubens Barrichello then Fernando Alonso put their cars at the top of the timesheets – although the Spaniard’s performance in front of a home crowd provoked controversy after he sent BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld airborne near the pitlane entrance.
Heidfeld reportedly called the move “stupid” over the team radio and later said: “Such a crash is really unnecessary during free practice. I saw him in the rear view mirror locking up his wheels and tried to open the door for him, but he went straight into me and I almost rolled.”
Mark Webber, meanwhile, has said his Red Bull RB5 is under-par and unlikely to put him on the top step of the podium after he and colleague Sebastian Vettel failed to make much of an impression on the timesheets.
Title rivals Brawn GP, by contrast, seemed quietly confident after a day which saw Rubens Barrichello leading the first-practice standings and Button in fourth, split by the two McLarens. In the second session Button and Barrichello were second and third behind Alonso.
Button said following the afternoon session: “We’ve had a reasonably good first day of practice and it’s encouraging to see that the car seems to be on the pace again.
“The focus of our programme was on set-up checks and back-to-back evaluations to confirm that the work done back at the factory after our shutdown was in the right direction.
“There is still some work needed on the set-up before qualifying as I’m not completely happy with the balance but all in all the pace of the car seems reasonably good.”
Team boss Ross Brawn added: “We’ve had a good start to the weekend today with two strong practice session. The track temperatures are very high here, reaching 50 degrees Celsius this afternoon, so we have been able to manage our tyre temperatures well and not encounter the issues which have hampered our pace at the past few races.
“Both drivers followed very similar programmes as we revisited some set-ups from previous races as test items to increase our understanding of the car’s performance.”
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton had to take heavy consequences from a relatively minor piece of clumsiness that saw him briefly drop the MP4-24’s rear end and graze the wall on the tight street circuit, breaking a particularly hard-to-replace component on the car’s wing as he did it.
He had to sit out the rest of the session, thus losing precious running time, and said afterwards: “I touched the wall, but didn’t even really feel the impact. I only grazed the front wing — but, unfortunately, it couldn’t be repaired as we didn’t have a spare one.
“Hopefully, we can get a new one for tomorrow, or else we’ll have to make some changes — we don’t have lots of these wings available.
“I didn’t feel too happy with the car this morning, but the changes we made between the sessions were very positive. On my last lap, I was six tenths up and it was already looking quite good, so I feel positive for Saturday.
“It’s a shame we missed out on so much track-time, but I still think we’ll be okay tomorrow — that time can always be regained.”
A dreadful day for Toyota saw both cars off the pace while Ferrari’s stand-in driver Luca Badoer was hit by no less than four separate fines for pitlane speeding and had to present himself to the stewards and explain his behaviour.
Practice two times
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:39.404 (33 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:40.178 (33 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:40.209 (34 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:40.385 (39 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:40.503 (35 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:40.596 (23 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:40.643 (34 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:40.681 (31 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:40.723 (33 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:40.738 (31 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:40.739 (39 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:40.770 (32 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:40.787 (35 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:40.956 (37 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:40.985 (30 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:41.156 (34 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:41.350 (29 laps)
- Luca Badoer, Ferrari: 1:42.017 (37 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:42.089 (34 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:43.214 (3 laps)
Practice one times
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:42.460 (19 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:42.636 (16 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:42.654 (18 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:43.074 (19 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:43.088 (17 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:43.209 (13 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:43.225 (25 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:43.243 (19 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:43.345 (18 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:43.384 (23 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:43.389 (30 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:43.419 (20 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:43.637 (30 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:43.746 (22 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:44.040 (23 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:44.126 (17 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:44.356 (23 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:44.638 (26 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:44.732 (28 laps)
- Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:45.840 (25 laps)