As the lights go green for the second free practice session, the air temperature is 36 degrees C, while the track temperature is now 38 degrees.
As is often the case in the second Saturday session, there is no mad scramble to get out on track. Indeed, almost five minutes elapse before the first driver appears… Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn had a technical problem earlier which meant he had little running and only posted a 'token' time.
As the McLaren driver begins his first timed lap, Villeneuve, Ralf and Trulli leave the pits.
Kimi posts the benchmark (1:33.160) as Sato and Alonso leave their garages.
Ralf goes quickest (1:32.343) as teammate Trulli goes third, ahead of Villeneuve and Sato. However, moments later the Canadian improves, posting a 1:32.869 to go second. His moment of glory is just that, a moment, for within seconds Button Klien, Alonso, de la Rosa and Fisichella go quicker.
Button's 1:30.324 is the quickest we've seen all weekend, and gives us (hopefully) an idea of the pace we can expect in qualifying.
15 minutes into the session and Michael Schumacher is back on track, almost instantly the German is on the pace, crossing the line just 0.024s shy of Button's benchmark.
The order: Button, Michael, de la Rosa, Klien, Alonso, Fisichella, Trulli, Ralf, Coulthard and Villeneuve.
Felipe Massa improves to seventh with a 1:32.152, as Webber goes fourteenth. Other than Barrichello, who won't be taking part in this session, the only driver that hasn't posted a time is Nick Heidfeld.
Ralf has a big moment at Turn 10, damaging his left-rear tyre. He subsequently heads back to the pits… very slowly.
After a brief lull, the action appears to be hotting up as Kimi Raikkonen begins what looks to be a serious lap. The Finn goes quickest in sector one and then again in sector two. He crosses the line at 1:29.810, that's half-a-second quicker than anything else we've seen thus far.
This appears to be the turning point, for moments later Trulli and Alonso both break the 1:29s barrier, the Italian going quickest with a 1:29.798. Not to be out-done, Klien and Alonso also post in the 1:29s.
As Heidfeld goes tenth, Ralf Schumacher goes quickest in the second sector, the German subsequently crossing the line at 1:29.711. Meanwhile, brother Michael goes seventh with a 1:30.080.
With around 12 minutes remaining, Ralf is quickest, ahead of teammate Trulli, with Raikkonen third, ahead of Alonso, de la Rosa, Klien, Michael, Button, Coulthard and Sato. Webber is still rooted at the wrong end of the timesheets, with Heidfeld doing little better in thirteenth. Hasn't been the best of weekends, thus far, for the Grove outfit. That said, the Australian leapfrogs his teammate to take thirteenth (1:31.252).
A 1:29.738 sees Melbourne winner Giancarlo Fisichella go second, splitting the Toyotas.
With seven minutes remaining there just five cars on track, though there is sure to be a burst of frenzied activity very soon.
Suddenly, all the 'big guns' are on track, the eight quickest drivers thus far, plus Coulthard, Sato, Massa and Villeneuve.
Michael Schumacher goes quickest in the first sector, but loses ground in the second, going very wide at one point. He fails to improve, though up until that moment it was a very useful looking lap.
As the session appears to be over, Webber, from out of nowhere, produces one of his typical free practice surprises, going quickest with a 1:29.527, eclipsing Ralf by 0.184. Quite amazing.
The session ends with the top 11 drivers covered by 0.797s. Webber is quickest, ahead of Ralf, Fisichella, Trulli, Raikkonen, Alonso, de la Rosa, Klien, Michael and Heidfeld.
Button is eleventh, ahead of Coulthard, Sato, Massa, Villeneuve, Karthikeyan, Monteiro, Albers and Friesacher.