Nico Rosberg continued his domination of this season’s practice by again emerging as top dog ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
For the seventh time of the 11 sessions that have been run over the four race weekends to date, Williams driver Rosberg was fastest.
In searing temperatures of 37 degrees centigrade, Rosberg posted a time of one minute 33.339 seconds for the 5.412km circuit in the second 90-minute practice run.
The German’s problem, though, is he has been unable to transfer his status in practice into qualifying and the race.
Rosberg has started fifth, sixth and seventh in Australia, Malaysia and China so far, collecting a mere 3.5 points overall from those grands prix.
Renault’s Fernando Alonso, a lowly 18th in first practice, rose to the heights of second in the afternoon, finishing 0.191secs adrift of Rosberg.
Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was third, followed by the Red Bull Racing duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber who scored a historic one-two for the team in Sunday’s rain-lashed event in Shanghai.
As for current championship leader Jenson Button, the Briton could only manage sixth in a Brawn GP that is favourite to win on Sunday, finishing 0.355secs off Rosberg’s pace.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was in a far lighter mood in the wake of a more positive day, compared to his chagrin in China a week ago.
Although Hamilton was down in 11th in second practice, he topped the timesheets after the first session with a lap that was the fourth best overall behind Rosberg, Alonso and Trulli.
The suggestion is McLaren are slowly getting their act together, even if they are arguably still lacking in pace compared to the teams leading the way this season in Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota.
Yet whilst there is cause for optimism within McLaren, even with next Wednesday’s ’lie-gate’ hearing hanging over them, one wonders at the feelings within BMW Sauber and Ferrari.
Like McLaren, they were championship contenders last season, and like McLaren, they have endured a wretched start to this year.
To underline their misery, Felipe Massa was 16th and Kimi Raikkonen 18th in the second session.
The real fear is that for the first time in their history they will emerge from the opening four races of a season without a point.
As for Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, they finished 17th and 20th, with McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen down in 19th.