SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, showing he’s well positioned to take his first pole position of the season.
Rosberg has taken pole in the last two races in Bahrain and will look to complete a hat trick in qualifying on Saturday. Hamilton has never taken pole here but won last year ahead of Rosberg when the race was raced under floodlights for the first time.
”I’m feeling good about my pace on one lap and the long runs too, so confidence is high,” said Rosberg, the runner-up to Hamilton in last season’s Formula One championship.
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The German driver needs a win on Sunday after securing just one victory in his past 14 races.
With the floodlights turned on and mild temperatures cooling the desert track on Friday evening, the Mercedes pair proved too quick for the two Ferraris – which dominated a first practice session held in searing early-afternoon heat.
Rosberg, seeking his first win of the Formula One season, posted a best lap of 1 minute, 34.647 seconds, putting him .115 quicker than Hamilton, who has won two of the first three races this year.
”There’s a few areas I need to work on to find a bit more time,” said Hamilton, who is eyeing a fourth straight pole of the season.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was third best ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel. Both were more than half a second behind Rosberg.
Raikkonen was fastest in the first session ahead of Vettel – with Rosberg 15th and Hamilton 16th as Mercedes drove conservatively to manage their tires.
There were some hiccups for the leading drivers in the evening.
After a red flag halted the session near the end, Hamilton and Raikkonen failed to leave their pit lanes correctly. Following a stewards’ investigation, Raikkonen was reprimanded for driving dangerously and no action was taken against Hamilton.
Earlier in the second session, Hamilton mentioned that his rear tires were sliding and had a brief scare when he took a turn too wide and veered momentarily off the track.
Rosberg was called back to the pits with two minutes left because his team was concerned with a telemetry issue.
The red flag came out with six minutes to go when Mexican driver Sergio Perez swerved into Vettel, taking off the German’s left front wing.
That incident annoyed four-time champion Vettel.
”I had a failure – a brake failure – and then Perez took my wing off. Unbelievable,” he said over his radio.
No further action was taken against either driver following the investigation. Vettel later accepted his share of the blame and sought to apologize to Perez.
In the first practice, Raikkonen clocked a best lap of 1 minute, 37.827 seconds, putting him .202 ahead of Vettel and .563 clear of the consistent Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth in the second run.
Ferrari has started the season well, with Vettel winning the Malaysian GP and securing two other podium positions to apply early pressure on Mercedes.
”Ferrari’s back and they looked very strong in the long runs,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said. ”We don’t have the gap before as we did last year and this has to be considered.”
It proved to be another frustrating day for struggling McLaren as Jenson Button stalled his car right at the start of the first session and was called back to the pits early into the second due to a problem with the engine’s data.
Teammate Fernando Alonso fared somewhat better, finishing seventh in the first session and then 12th.
McLaren has made the transition to Honda engines this season but there have been problems with the power unit since pre-season testing began in January and the car also lacks downforce. Despite boasting two former world champions, McLaren has failed to score a point this season.