Michael Schumacher tops second practice for the Australian Grand Prix

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

Michael Schumacher tops second practice 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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