Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg topped the time sheets in Practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix today. The Ferrari driver set his quickest time in the morning Practice session, posting a 1:38.917 on the Medium tyre, two tenths ahead of his teammate Sebastien Vettel, and a further five tenths ahead of Williams’ Valterri Bottas.
Most of the running in Practice One was branded as ‘unrepresentative’ considering the track temperatures were in the ambient 37 degrees centigrade. We did see some dramas though, initially from Jenson Button who stopped within four minutes of the start down at turn one, after his Power Unit completely seized up heading through the corner. McLaren didn’t end up getting Button back out, which meant that he had to wait until Practice Two to get some running in.
Vettel meanwhile was having engine issues into his first couple of runs, which forced him to pit to allow Ferrari to check over the issue after completing just 12 laps. They later changed both engines on Raikkonen and Vettel’s cars after finding cracks. Ericsson meanwhile was also having Power Unit issues in his customer Sauber, also completing just 12 laps. Generally it looked like the teams were running aero and setup programmes, in anticipation for Practice Two which would be set in more representative conditions.
Track evolution certainly played a part, with the top time being bested throughout the closing 15 minutes of the session, with Alonso going fastest at one point in the McLaren. He ended up 7th fastest by the chequered flag, whilst both Mercedes drivers were P15 and P16 having completed a total of 45 laps between them.
Moving on to Practice Two, and we saw the usual order of Rosberg leading from Hamilton followed by the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the top three. Rosberg’s best time was a 1:34.647, a tenth ahead of Hamilton and a further five tenths ahead of Raikkonen. The lap times set midway through the session are still believed to be unrepresentative of their true pace however, considering Hamilton lost time in the middle sector locking up and Vettel who was fourth also lost time going off the track.
Looking at the times we saw that on times that were similar age, Rosberg who completed 16 laps was six tenths slower than Vettel who completed 13 laps, which could mean that its another case of getting the undercut and going for track position on Sunday for Ferrari who seem optimistic about fighting for the race win.
That could be curtailed with a potential grid penalty however, after Vettel got caught up in an incident which is currently being investigated by the Stewards between him and Sergio Perez in the Force India. The Ferrari driver appeared to have braking issues coming out of the pits during the closing stages, causing him to take the corner quite tightly against the oncoming Force India which was going for the apex. The contact resulted in some of the Ferrari endplate to be scattered across the circuit and a Red Flag as Marshals attempted to recover it safely.
This then spawned another incident in pit lane between Raikkonen and Hamilton, both of whom jumped the queue in a rather dangerous fashion upon rejoining the circuit. The stewards are currently investigating the incident alongside the Vettel/Perez one.
Meanwhile in the closing stages we didn’t see too many improvements, with Riccardo managing to go 6th fastest after Red Bull’s torrid last couple of race weekends concerning the brakes – something which can be quite critical around this circuit. Maldonado meanwhile was 7th fastest in the Lotus, after going for a spot of rallycross in the morning session exiting the final corner. Alonso meanwhile was 12th fastest, after setting the 7th fastest time earlier on in the session, just 1.5 seconds off the pace.
Teammate Jenson Button however had a similar failure to the morning session early on again after completing three laps, however the team were able to get him back out on track with 15 minutes to go, but he was unable to get a competitive lap time on the board that backs up the pace set by Alonso.
Update: Both Vettel and Perez have been cleared by the stewards following their incident on track