Hamilton On Top As Action Kicks Off In Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton continued where he left off in Malaysia by dominating the first day of practice in Bahrain.
Hamilton headed teammate Nico Rosberg in both sessions, by margins of 0.231s and 0.365s respectively.
“Generally the car has been feeling good this weekend,” said Hamilton. “We’ve just been trying to get a feeling for the tires, the soft tire is quite a lot better than the tires we’ve been using, so quite a big difference. There’s lots to learn.
“The car feels better than when we went testing here, balance-wise, it was feeling really good. There’s still some tweaks we need to make to make it feel perfect. We have a better understanding of the car, we know what kind of ways to set the car up a little bit better than we did in the testing. When you’re testing, you’re testing so many different things, you can’t really set the car up. Here we’re working on the car setup for the race weekend, and it feels good.”
Hamilton said keeping the soft tires alive will be key: “That’s the trick. We did a session just now, we struggled a little bit on the tires, as everyone does.”
Meanwhile he said he enjoyed driving the track at night.
“It was great, [but] you don’t really notice a lot of difference. It was quite nice being cooler for the tires and for the long runs. I think they’ve done a great job with the circuit, I think the circuit looks even better at night.”
Alonso, Ferrari Lead Chase In Bahrain
Fernando Alonso and Ferrari led the chase of Mercedes in Bahrain today by taking third spot in both practice sessions.
However it was close on soft tires in second practice, as Alonso was less than a tenth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s RBR and Felipe Massa’s Williams.
“Today was very useful, especially FP2, to learn about the behavior of the tires and the car,” said Alonso. “Even if we did a lot of running here in winter testing, now it’s like starting from scratch and one has to adapt to the new indications coming from the differing track conditions. We know our strong points and the areas we must focus on to improve, but we must not overreact in trying to close the performance gap. At the moment we must make steady progress, while still keeping an eye on reliability, which has brought us a good points haul in the first couple of races, which is always very important.”
Kimi Raikkonen was clearly less happy with progress, the Finn taking sixth and 14th in the two sessions.
“Overall, this was a difficult day, because I didn’t feel comfortable with the car in either session. In the first one, I damaged the floor on the kerb at Turn 4 and this meant I had to pit. The team did a super job, because they got me back out on track in a short time, but then, because of a problem with the brakes, I was unable to complete the program. In the second session we concentrated on looking at the two Pirelli compounds and with the soft it was definitely better than the medium.”
“Work on both cars concentrated on setup, aimed at improving stability under braking,” said engineering boss Pat Fry. “In the earlier session, Kimi’s program was interrupted when the floor on his F14T was partly broken after he hit a kerb at turn 4, but we had no problems with Fernando. Then tonight, we did a long run test and now we must look closely at tire performance, which is a key factor this weekend along with fuel consumption.
“It will be interesting to see how the hierarchy will change between tomorrow and Sunday, because the technical characteristics of this track mean the gaps between some of the teams could close up.”
Lotus Finally Logs Good Mileage In Bahrain
Lotus finally enjoyed a reliable day in Bahrain as Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean logged a total of 103 laps in the E22.
The only problems were a misfire for Grosjean and a spectacular leap over the kerbs for Maldonado, whose car had to be inspected for damage.
The focus was simply on running and gathering data, and the cars were only 17th and 18th in FP2, and almost three seconds slower than the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
“We have learnt a lot about the car today which can only help us to make progress,” said Grosjean. “I had a bit of an issue which needed investigating in the second session, so it was frustrating to miss some time as I’m sure we would have made more improvements.”
“It was good to have a reliable car and we completed a lot of work today,” said Maldonado. “We had a lot of parts to test and we ran through many different evaluations. I made a little mistake in the evening session and we took quite a bit of air after jumping the kerb. Fortunately, not too much damage was done and we could continue the session.”
Meanwhile Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane said: “Today was a far more normal Friday where we were able to evaluate a wide selection of new aero parts in the first session and work on setup and tire performance in the evening session. FP1 wasn’t a fantastic experience for either driver; we kept a baseline setup on the car as we assessed many new parts.
“The evening was all about data collection, albeit of a different nature too. Aside from a small issue with Romain’s car we have been reliable today which means we have plenty of data to be working on overnight as we look to qualifying tomorrow.”
Mercedes Pace No Surprise, Says Vettel
Sebastian Vettel had something of a lowkey Friday in Bahrain, finishing the day in seventh place – and a couple of tenths behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was fourth.
“We’re still learning a lot in terms of reliability, in terms of setting the car,” he said. “So it’s important to do lap and important to not have any problems.”
Regarding the pace of the Mercedes he said: “They are very quick, it’s not a surprise, they have been very quick at the testing here. I think also other teams look very strong again, McLaren, Williams, at first glance. But for us today was mostly about ourselves, like the last couple of weeks to be honest, trying to learn and understand more about the car. There’s still a long progress ahead of us.
“I think we learned at the testing here that Mercedes is very strong around this track, and I think they’ve proven again today that they are quite quick. It will be a long way for us to catch up, and long term it’s important that we make bigger steps than them. Today was a good day, a solid day for us, very difficult in terms of where we are in terms of pace, but very easy to say that we are not with Mercedes.”Bahrain GP, Fernand Alonso, Formula 1, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Sebastian Vettel