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Practice 2: Sutil tops near-washout

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Adrian Sutil put Force India at the top of the timesheet in a second practice session at Suzuka that was a virtual washout.

A lunchtime downpour saturated the circuit and prevented any meaningful running until more than hour into the 90-minute session.

But the rain finally abated in time for a flurry of activity in the last few minutes, when Sutil once again demonstrated his wet-weather skills by clocking the fastest lap by two-thirds of a second from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

Tonio Liuzzi was third quickest in the other Force India from world champion Lewis Hamilton and local favourite Kazuki Nakajima. It was clear from the outset that there was going to be precious little running, with the pit lane flooded and large pools of standing water gathering in the hollows around the undulating 3.6-mile track. The Toro Rosso drivers ventured out for a single untimed exploratory lap each, but soon decided the conditions were undrivable.

As heavy rain continued to fall and the TV cameras showed rivers streaming across the track in various places, no one was in any hurry to leave the sanctuary of their garages. More than an hour elapsed before Jaime Alguersuari became the first driver to brave the conditions for a tentative flying lap, posting a 1m56.848s despite having to cross a particularly tricky stream between the Dunlop and Degner corners.

With 13 minutes remaining, fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso used his greater experience to launch a more committed lap and stop the clocks in 1m48.693s.

That was a signal to the rest of the field that conditions were now drivable, prompting an exodus from the pits and rapid-fire changes of order in the dying minutes. Sutil had a scary moment when he ran wide through the ultra-quick 130R left-hander and skipped across the Astroturf and asphalt apron the exit, but set the afternoon’s fastest time on his next lap. His 1m47.261s was some seven seconds slower than the benchmark set by Heikki Kovalainen in the much drier morning session, but was still an impressive effort given the still soaking surface.

Jarno Trulli was another to flirt with disaster, the Italian running wide and onto the grass in the middle of the S-Curves but scrambling back onto the road.

Kovalainen and the two Brawn GP drivers did not complete timed laps.

1 SUTIL Force India   1m47.261s
2 VETTEL Red Bull       1m47.923s
3 LIUZZI Force India 1m47.931s
4 HAMILTON McLaren 1m47.983s
5 NAKAJIMA Williams 1m48.058s
6 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m48.691s
7 ALONSO Renault 1m48.693s
8 TRULLI Toyota 1m48.737s
9 ALGUERSUARI    Toro Rosso     1m48.802s
10 KUBICA BMW 1m48.861s
11 RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1m48.886s
12 KOBAYASHI Toyota 1m49.054s
13 WEBBER Red Bull 1m49.382s
14 GROSJEAN Renault 1m49.405s
15 FISICHELLA Ferrari 1m49.553s
16 ROSBERG Williams 1m49.872s
17 HEIDFELD  BMW 1m50.179s
18 KOVALAINEN McLaren No Time
19 BUTTON Brawn No Time
20 BARRICHELLO Brawn No Time

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