Jenson Button, the defending world champion, posted the fastest time during practice for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver was competitive in both today’s sessions, finishing second quickest behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the morning session, before dominating the field in second practice. Hamilton, who had been a full second ahead of his compatriot, was unable to make any significant improvement, while Button – as well as the Red Bulls of Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber – went faster by about a second and a half. Button’s fastest lap clocked in at one minute 28.280 seconds.
The continued performance of the Briton will serve as a warning to the Red Bull drivers – who currently share the top berth in the drivers’ standings - that they will be challenged for the podium on Sunday. Webber was nearly one-tenth of a second slower than Button, with Vettel just behind him. The pair had only managed eighth and fifth respectively in the morning session and things got worse for Webber later in the day following an engine failure in the closing minutes. His Renault power-unit was billowing smoke from the rear of the car.
Webber will be understandably frustrated as he aims to complete a hat-trick of race victories and consolidate his place as championship leader. Fernando Alonso continues to show that he can push the joint leaders in his Ferrari, and he was just behind Hamilton’s time of one minute 28.672secs, but will hope that he can go faster over the weekend if he is to stay in touch. His team-mate Felipe Massa had a more unfortunate afternoon, and could only post the tenth fastest time of the session before spinning off at turn eight, destroying his tyres.
The Mercedes pair of Niko Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were sixth and seventh fastest respectively, ahead of Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov in the Renaults. In the first session, however, the German drivers had both gone round the circuit in under one minute 30 seconds, showing their intent to compete for the top points in Sunday’s race.
Meanwhile, F1’s three newest teams continued to struggle. The drivers from Virgin, Lotus and Hispania recorded the six slowest times around the Istanbul Park circuit in both sessions.