Brought to you by Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
After the relaxed pace that was demonstrated earlier a more serious hour and a half of running was expected, with this being the only practice session in the same conditions as the race, making it of paramount importance. Felipe Massa made an early trip out onto the circuit as the last of the light faded over the 5.4km track. The mixture of floodlights and sparks meant some spectacular images for those watching in high definition.
Raikkonen went fastest on the medium tyre to begin with, ahead of both the Williams cars even with locking up the rear tyres at the end of his lap. Rosberg ran wide into turn 11 on his first lap and caused a plume of sand to fly up behind him. An extreme problem for the drivers, as the sticky Pirellis will prove nigh on impossible to clean without a large load going, which causes degradation, into the tyres. Vettel went fastest, but was immediately better by Lewis Hamilton who set a 1:36.795, 0.293 quicker than the German.
Despite the two support series competing prior to FP2 (GP2 and Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East), the track was still proving challenging in its dirty condition. Rear tyres were struggling to cool with the high braking zones and still high ambient temperatures. Jenson Button was the first casualty of the session as his MP4-30 pulled up on the side of the track just short of 20 minutes in. A big loss for the Briton in such a crucial session, although a cause for positivity is the impending updates due for the Woking team.
It was a surprise to see the Ferrari of Raikkonen move onto the soft (option) tyre so soon, going 1.283 seconds quicker, setting a 1:35.512. But for a wobble in the final turn, his teammate Vettel would have gone much faster, but in the end slotted in one tenth down on the Finn. The tyres, as predicted, struggled to set a second lap, as Vettel went 0.301 slower than Raikkonen’s fastest on his second flyer.
Lewis Hamilton made a mistake on his flying lap, which according to Allan McNish of BBCF1 cost him three tenths, ended 0.115 down on Rosberg’s timed lap – a 1:34.647. That was it for the headline laps as almost everyone switched to the medium tyre, although Bottas and the Lotus pair were yet to do so. Maldonado reaffirmed the potential of the Enstone challenger as he went fifth quickest, soon replaced by Valtteri Bottas, though the Finn’s lap was not without traffic.
Learning from their previous mistakes Mercedes elected to split their strategies of data capture, with Hamilton going for a long run on the mediums and Rosberg rejoining on the softs. Hamilton’s first lap a 1:40.724 as he enjoyed some clear running on the still very warm tarmac. Rosberg ran in the low 1:40s, consistently half a second faster than the medium.
Max Verstappen provided a comical radio message for the FOM broadcast by asking, “why is it so easy to spin the rear tyres in F1?”
Continual adjustment required for the Force India of Hulkenberg as he looked to bounce back from a DNF last time out. The Silverstone team’s cars continued to languish at the back of the field, intertwined with the Toro Rossos cars and two seconds ahead of the Marussias.
More encouraging news for fans of McLaren as their long run pace was strong, with minimal drop off on the medium tyre. Conversely, the Lotus of Maldonado gave a poor showing on the long run, although this was set on the soft tyre. The medium (prime) looks to be over 2 seconds slower than the soft (option) tyre, but far better for use in race simulations.
With just 17 minutes of the session left, the obligatory flash of Carmen Jorda on our screens came as she gazed longingly out to the track from the Lotus garage. As the cars looked to be cruising around the Sakhir circuit everything looked to be running smoothly until the cameras suddenly cut to a limping Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel had been exiting the pits when he suffered a brake failure going into turn 1.
Sergio Perez failed to leave him enough space, although it was understandable in a three into one situation, as Felipe Nasr was lapping around the outside. Debris on the track at turn 1 meant a red flag with little under ten minutes remaining. Immediately an investigation after the session was reported which will mean a trip to the stewards for all involved.
Five and a half minutes remaining and we were GO GO GO again. Nico Rosberg rejoined the track straight away on the medium tyre. No sooner had he completed a couple of laps was he instructed to return to the pits after the team saw “something they didn’t like” on the telemetry. Nevertheless, 15 cars remained out to sign off the session. Kimi Raikkonen continued to push even on his in lap.
The Ferraris showed a far stronger long run pace than the Mercedes pair, although the fuel loads were the great unknown, so don’t read too much into the initial readings. Another strong showing from Felipe Nasr as he outshone his teammate once again. 3 separate races emerging clearly here in the desert, with the Red and the Silver cars far ahead of the trailing pack.
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:35.449||0.802||27|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||01:35.883||1.236||23|
|14||Carlos Sainz||Torro Rosso||01:36.471||1.824||32|
|15||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||01:36.805||2.158||30|
|16||Max Verstappen||Torro Rosso||01:36.917||2.270||26|
|17||Sergio Perez||Force India||01:37.062||2.415||33|