Alonso achieves the third best time as the Ferraris have a field day

Felipe Massa pulled off a stunning lap at the fag end of the second free practice on Friday afternoon, whipping his Ferrari to over 215kmph to blunt world champion Sebastian Vettel's thrust.

The Brazilian's time of 1:25.706 was by far the best performance of the day at the Buddh International Circuit — a slender but morale-boosting lead of 0.088 seconds ahead of the Red Bull driver.

Massa, however, was reluctant to read too much into his performance. “It's always nice to be in the first place at the end of a day's work. However, we know that Friday's results are all relative. Sure, it would be nice to move through the weekend in the same position, but that will be very difficult to achieve,” he said.

Pretty pleased

Massa's teammate, Fernando Alonso, reeled in an inspiring 1:25.930s for the third best time of the day. In fact, the Spaniard would be pretty pleased with his showing in the afternoon after having stalled his car in his second lap of the morning session.

The Ferraris packed quite a punch, thundering down majestically on the 1.21-kilometre straight.

“I lost almost the entire morning session because of an engine problem. Fortunately, I managed to make up for it in the afternoon when I was able to run without any problems.

“My priority was to get a feel of the circuit. Given the condition of the track surface, I don't think I lost out that much compared to the others,” Alonso said. “My first impressions (of the track) are positive. The car seems to behave well on the track.

“I like the track even if it is very dirty (meaning dusty), and if you go just the slightest bit off line, it's like driving on ice.

VThis could create overtaking problems on Sunday, but maybe it could all change by then,” the Spaniard added. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Jenson Button (McLaren), who are all fighting for the second place along with Alonso, returned tepid timings. All three were over 0.700 seconds off leader Massa. In the forenoon session, Hamilton proved to be the fastest in 1:26.836s, but botched it all up with another of his idiosyncratic drives that forced the stewards to work overtime. The British driver ignored the double waved yellow flag at Turn 16 and this breach of the FIA International Sporting Code meant Hamilton would drop three places on the starting grid for the Grand Prix of India on Sunday.

Joining Hamilton in the list of erring drivers was Sergio Perez of Sauber, who also copped a three-place penalty on the starting grid for ignoring the yellow flag at the same turn. Williams driver Pastor Maldonado's shunt at Turn 16, following an engine failure, necessitated the double waved yellow flag.

Dubious distinction

Jerome D'Ambrosio had the dubious distinction of being involved in the first crash on the circuit. The Marussia Virgin Racing driver veered out of line on Turn 11 and hit the wall, damaging the rear wing of his car.

Adrian Sutil showed that Sahara Force India could be competitive, if not capable of challenging the top-rung drivers at the BIC.

“Today we targeted a slightly higher mileage to increase our data on the circuit and evaluate the tyre behaviour. Overnight there is much to do to review our results and simulations. We are looking ahead to the rest of the weekend,” said Dominic Harlow, the Indian outfit's circuit engineering director.

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