Button fastest in practice two today. Photo: AP/Luca Bruno
Jenson Button dominated the second practice session earlier today at Istanbul Park in Turkey to become the fastest driver on the time sheet. Despite some promising form in the first session, where Schumacher and Rosberg were close to the form of the number one and two McLaren's, the second session saw the re-emergence of Red Bull and Ferrari.
In essence if the Mercedes has stepped forward, it's being disguised by the overall improvements made by the other teams and of course the various testing programs each team is running. Both Nico Roserg and Michael Schumacher were positive despite being in 6th and 7th positions respectively.
"We made some good progress today and have been working hard with our updates for the car." said Rosberg following today's free practice. "It wasn't a perfect day as we lost some time in the process of evaluating the new developments, particularly in the second session, so I was playing catch-up this afternoon. However we achieved a lot of interesting work and arrived at a decent balance by the end of the day so I am reasonably happy. We have a few question marks remaining and it will be a busy final practice session tomorrow. The early indications are that we have made a decent step forward and although we don't know how much yet, it is a good job from the guys at the factory and at the track to get everything here and working."
(Nico Rosberg gets suited up during today's practice. Photo: AP/Ibrahim Usta)
Schumacher was fairly "chipper" about his performance today, but didn't reveal too much about his chances this weekend. "It's really difficult to judge what the current picture is after today's practice sessions, especially as we don't know who was running on what fuel loads." admitted Schumacher. "We certainly have some improvements on the car which you can notice but it is very difficult to quantify the full effects coming from Monaco to here and thus not having a clear reference and comparison."
(Schumacher revealed we'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow during qualifying. Could the German ace have something up his sleeve? Photo: AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)
"Clearly the improvements are in the right direction but as always it is a matter of how quick we develop compared to our competitors. Turn eight is still a nice challenge here. It has small surprises in terms of bumps and it is fun to drive obviously. It is exciting and technical at the same time. Let's wait and see what is going to happen tomorrow." said the seven-time champion.
In many respects the results today have left the team in a status quo. They haven't got an obvious edge on any of their main rivals, but the benefit of that is that they haven't gone back wards either. Team Principal Ross Brawn was positive about the team's progress and pointed out the limitations on testing which make it challenging for teams to fully assess package changes on the go.
"Today's two practice sessions were particularly busy for the team as we had our first opportunity to evaluate our new developments on the track. Without track testing it is always a challenge to bring new parts directly onto the car but we were able to achieve some good work today. Both drivers are reasonably happy but as always, we will not be able to make a valid judgement on our progress until the end of the weekend."
As is typical, a better assessment of the team's real progress will have to wait until tomorrow when the gloves come off and we get down to the business of qualifying. The track was dusty and dirty initially, but improved over the course of the day, which will help the drivers and improve lap times tomorrow.
Button's 1:28.280 was certainly faster than everyone else today. He had 0.694 of a second on Schumacher and 0.643 on Rosberg which never sounds like much, but per lap would see Button have a second gap after just a couple of laps. You start to grasp why drivers in this sport are desperate for fractions of a second and the pressure to perform continuous perfect laps to avoid losing time. That puts a lot of mental and physical demand on the driver and Turkey is one of the toughest on thanks to the high G-loading, especially in turn 8, and the anti-clockwise layout.
With the demanding track, mechanical issues might also play a part this weekend too with Mark Webber apparently losing an engine and Massa struggling with his tires degrading terribly. Other teams too reported minor issues and as we know, anything can happen in Formula One.
View the You Tube video below which gives you an idea of what happens in the garage as the drivers suit up and prepare their cockpits.
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