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Michael Schumacher tops second practice for the Australian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, MercedesMichael Schumacher set the pace in a rain-affected second free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The seven-time champion set his 1m29.183s lap on the last of the session, on a track that was improving in terms of grip with every second of running, but in spite of being at the right end of the roulette wheel the Mercedes driver had look good for it throughout the last frantic 20 minutes of running.

In the end Schumacher denied Nico Hulkenberg another giant-killing headline, and the young German had to settle for second best this time. Sergio Perez was third fastest for Sauber.

Torrential rain during the break between the two sessions rendered much of FP2 largely pointless, and it was Perez and Schumacher that were nominally fastest on the intermediates by the time the teams reached a natural pause around two thirds of the way through the practice.

As Albert Park fell silent, it was clear many of the teams were protecting their new cars from the walls that enclosed the slippery surface - aware perhaps that spares are at premium at this point in the season.

Only in the last 20 minutes did they deem it safe enough to venture back out and the session finally came alive when it was dry enough to run on slicks.

And during this period it was Hulkenberg who starred as he embarked on a battle with Schumacher for top honours - the Force India driver on the soft tyres and the Mercedes using mediums. Hulkenberg's team-mate Paul di Resta also had a brief spell at the top of the times before fading to sixth.

Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in the Ferrari ahead of Kamui Kobayashi - who had a wild ride at the final turn on his last lap.

Felipe Massa, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg and world champion Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten.

Neither McLaren driver featured much in the session as they preferred to stay out of the danger zone, and both ended up behind Timo Glock's 12th placed Marussia.

There were several visits to the grass and run-off for much of the field, including Perez, Jean-Eric Vergne, Webber and Kovalainen, but no contact with the barriers.

Pos  Driver                Team                    Time               Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                1m29.183s            16
 2.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes    1m29.292s  +  0.109  19
 3.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari          1m30.199s  +  1.016  23
 4.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 1m30.341s  +  1.158  13
 5.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari          1m30.709s  +  1.526  14
 6.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes    1m31.466s  +  2.283  13
 7.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 1m31.505s  +  2.322  14
 8.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault        1m31.932s  +  2.749  16
 9.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                1m32.184s  +  3.001  17
10.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        1m32.194s  +  3.011  19
11.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        1m32.296s  +  3.113  20
12.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth       1m32.632s  +  3.449  17
13.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault        1m32.767s  +  3.584  15
14.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault           1m32.822s  +  3.639  11
15.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1m33.039s  +  3.856  18
16.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes        1m33.252s  +  4.069  11
17.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault        1m34.108s  +  4.925  21
18.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault           1m34.275s  +  5.092   7
19.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault        1m34.312s  +  5.129  17
20.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1m34.485s  +  5.302  29
21.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1m34.604s  +  5.421  31
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth       1m34.770s  +  5.587  13
23.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth            1m42.627s  +  13.444 16
24.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth                                  1

All Timing Unofficial
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