Vettel tops timesheets again in FP2

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Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has continued his good pace from Free Practice 1 after finishing quickest in the second Friday session in Australia.

The Red Bull driver finished over two-tenths clear of teammate Mark Webber, with the team having made a big step forward since the final test in Barcelona.

Nico Rosberg finished third for Mercedes, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton down in seventh place despite both drivers encountering problems late in the session. The Silver Arrows will be pleased with their progress, although they have failed to repeat their testing pace so far. The Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Fernando Alonso in sixth, and Felipe Massa struggled to match his FP1 success down in seventh.

Many of the drivers struggled with the new Pirelli tires, with their super-soft rubber prvoing particularly difficult to work with late in the session. Hamilton and Caterham rookie Giedo van der Garde both beached their cars in the gravel, and Mark Webber spun his RB9 late on as he pushed to beat his teammate.

Once again, it seems that Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes are closely matched with less than one second separating the top eight. McLaren appear to have work to do, finishing in 11th and 13th, whilst Jules Bianchi and Marussia will be happy to not only have beaten Caterham but also finish just three-tenths off Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.

Free Practice 2 – Classification

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.908 33 laps

2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:26.172 +0.264 31 laps

3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.322 +0.414 26 laps

4 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:26.361 +0.453 38 laps

5 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.680 +0.772 32 laps

6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:26.748 +0.840 35 laps

7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.772 +0.864 28 laps

8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.855 +0.947 32 laps

9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:27.435 +1.527 35 laps

10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.187 +2.279 34 laps

11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.294 +2.386 30 laps

12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:28.311 +2.403 37 laps

13 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.566 +2.658 33 laps

14 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:28.627 +2.719 31 laps

15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.772 +2.864 33 laps

16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:28.852 +2.944 36 laps

17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:28.968 +3.060 36 laps

18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:29.386 +3.478 39 laps

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:29.696 +3.788 32 laps

20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:30.165 +4.257 37 laps

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.600 +4.692 36 laps

22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:32.450 +6.542 11 laps

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.