Friday, 17 April 2015

Rosberg leads Mercedes 1-2 in Free Practice 2 in Bahrain as Ferrari shine under the lights

(Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team)

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets in an eventful Free Practice 2 session at the Sakhir circuit ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Rosberg’s fastest time was a 1m 34.647s as the German completed 31 laps under the lights. Speaking following today’s running, Rosberg stated:

It was a good was a good day today. The afternoon session wasn’t very useful as the conditions are so hot and really quite different to what we see in the evening – which is of course when qualifying and the race will be held. That makes the second session very valuable and we learned a lot – For example that Ferrari are very good on the long runs. On qualifying laps we look quicker but on race pace they are really strong so we will have to do a lot of work tonight to find the perfect setup. Tyre wise it’s all been very straightforward. Both compounds are robust – it’s just their absolute pace that should be a factor. Qualifying will be important as we saw in the last few races. But I’m feeling good about my pace on one lap and the long runs too so confidence is high.

Lewis Hamilton completed 33 laps with the reigning world champion setting a fastest time of 1m 34.762s. Following today’s running the double world champion stated:

‘We’ve had a good day in terms of getting the long runs in and understanding the tyres. Working on race runs was the priority – although we did also show strong single lap pace. On my fastest lap I locked up in Turn 8 so lost out a bit there and there’s a few areas I need to work on to find a bit more time. It’s difficult to say how long each compound will go but the Option feels great. From what I can see it shouldn’t be as tough as it was in Malaysia from the tyre prospective and we’re definitely in a better position this weekend than at the same stage in Sepang. Despite that, I’m sure it will still be very close with Ferrari, who look very good on the long runs. Generally though, it’s been a positive start.’
Mercedes Executive Director (Business) Toto Wolff stated:

‘We did a lot of laps today, got through out planned work and did a number of important experiments, especially during FP1. The track conditions between FP1 and FP2 were very different, with only the second session really relevant for Qualifying and the Race, and you need to understand properly how big change in track temperatures affects the cars. We saw some very strong long runs from a number of teams today during FP2? And Ferrari looked the quickest car during the session, with some very stable and quick lap times. So our boys are at the top of the time sheets, yes but we have a lot of work to do tonight to analyse and understand the data. But like always, this is only Friday and it’s Sunday that counts.’

Mercedes Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe stated:

‘The afternoon started with a power failure in the garage that disrupted our programme slightly. But after that we cracked on with long run analysis on the prime tyre. The hot conditions meant it was not the ideal scenario for setup work but we managed to gather some very useful data. In Practice Two we ran our normal programme in a trouble-free session. Our pace looks very close with Ferrari so, as usual, we will have plenty of work to do tonight to ensure we are optimised for qualifying and the race.’

Scuderia Ferrari continued to show that they are strong contenders this season, after topping the time sheets this morning, Kimi Raikkonen ended Free Practice 2 in third place with a fastest time of 1m 35.174s. The Finn completed 30 laps of the Sakhir circuit. The Iceman commented on his day of running saying:

I still haven’t had a look at the lap times of the session, but I think we are not as good as we want to be. In the second session it was a bit tricky with the set-up, we had some problems with the handling and we struggled in a few places. This evening we’ll analyse all the data in order to improve and do a better job tomorrow. Having a clear qualifying makes life easier in the race. I don’t know if we can challenge Mercedes, tomorrow is another day, conditions can change and this plays a big part, so let’s wait and see.”

Sebastian Vettel endured a difficult day in Bahrain, the four time world champion suffered a technical issue with his SF15-T this morning meaning that he missed most of the session. When he got back on track, the German finished in second place behind team mate Kimi Raikkonen. In the second the session, Vettel was involved in a collision with the Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez. The German ended the second session in fourth place with a fastest time of 1m 35.277s completing 26 laps.

Speaking at the end of the day, Vettel commented saying:

I came out of the garage and had a problem. I hit the brakes but suddenly there was a blow and I couldn’t brake properly. Therefore I hit Sergio Perez in the corner. Of course I’m sorry, but I couldn’t do anything else in that moment. I was looking for Sergio to say sorry, but he was still sitting in the car. My fast lap was not perfect, but everything in the car feels good. Of course tonight it was quite different from this afternoon, as it was much colder. It’s hard to say if we got closer to Mercedes, everybody seemed to be closer to them but I’m sure they didn’t show everything today.

The Williams Martini Racing Team’s Valtteri Bottas ended the day in fifth place for the Grove based outfit. The Finn completed 36 laps, the most of any driver in the second practice session. The Finn’s fastest time was 1m 35.280s. Speaking following the session, Bottas stated:

It has been a good Friday. The car feels good but it’s only Friday so it is hard to compare us against our competitors. We are still focusing on tyre performance in a race situation and have made progress, especially with the option tyre, although I think there is a bit more performance to find. We look quite strong for qualifying, but the race pace is important and we need to work hard tonight on this area.’

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team’s Daniel Ricciardo was 6th fastest for the Milton Keynes based outfit. The Australian completed 27 laps with his fastest time being a 1m 35.449s compared with a 1m 35.455s in the opening session this morning. Speaking following his day, Ricciardo stated:

I had an alright session, I think we’re looking pretty good. We’re more or less where we expect to be. We’re a little bit more competitive in cooler conditions so the night session should be good. The tyre degradation is quite high here, it will probably be a two stop race, but we’ll see. It’s going to be windy tomorrow so we might have some sand on the track.

The Lotus F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado was seventh fastest in the E23 Hybrid. The Venezuelan completed 57 laps over the course of the day and set a fastest time of 1m 35.474s. Speaking following Friday’s running, Maldonado stated:

I was very happy with the car in the hot conditions of the first session and also in the cooler, later session too. This is very positive as we didn’t have to spend too much time working on refining the set-up for the different track temperature but could work on our usual tyre evaluations. The track condition was good, even at the start of FP1 so we were able to have a productive day. I think we have good potential here this weekend.’  

Felipe Nasr was eighth fastest for the Sauber F1 Team setting a fastest time of 1m 35.793s completing 27 laps. The Brazilian finished the day just ahead of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian completed 23 laps with a fastest time of 1m 35.883s. Speaking following his day, Kvyat stated:

It was a normal long run for me and we managed to get some good laps in. Tyre degradation was as expected but we were disrupted by the red flag. There is some wind expected for tomorrow and we’ll see how that affects the car behaviour. It was a good Friday for us overall.

Williams Martini Racing Team’s Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten with a fastest time of 1m 35.884s just 1,000th of a second behind Kvyat. The Brazilian completed 35 laps. Speaking following Friday’s action, Massa stated:

I struggled with the balance of the car today but the team have shown there is good pace. We need to work hard tonight and make the right changes to get the car balance right, and then show the pace that Valtteri has shown today. We have also been working on tyre performance and have certainly made steps in the right direction.

Williams Martini Racing Team’s Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley stated:

‘It has been a really good day for the team. We had a lot of work to get done over the last couple of days and have hit every target that we set ourselves. There is an awful lot of data that we collected with regards to specification and management of tyres. We are where we expect to be on a Friday with regards to both high and low fuel runs, which is encouraging for qualifying and the race. The team has worked very well and to get through the arduous programme we had set was impressive. We used the conditions to our advantage and gathered data during FP1 as the track temperatures were hotter than we will experience in the race. We used this data and then focused on tyre and car performance in FP2.’

The Sauber F1 Team’s Marcus Ericsson was eleventh fastest, setting a fastest time of 1m 36.148s. The Swedish driver completed 34 laps of the Sakhir circuit and ended the day just ahead of McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso who completed 22 laps with a fastest time of 1m 36.191s.

The Lotus F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean was 13th with a fastest time of 1m 36.334s completing 31 laps. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished the day in 14th place for the Italian with a fastest time of 1m 36.471s. The Spaniard completed 32 laps and ended the day just ahead of the Sahara Force India Formula One Team’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Hulkenberg completed 30 laps with a fastest time of 1m 36.805s. Speaking following the conclusion of the track action the German stated:

It was quite a straightforward Friday. This morning we did a few aero tests to continue our process of understanding the car and learning about it, exploring different ways to optimise our performance. Our mileage was good, so we should have plenty of data to analyse tonight. The afternoon session went quite smoothly as well: we were able to use both tyre compounds and completed short and long runs. We got all we needed from the session, so that we could skip the final run and save a bit of engine life. We have a fairly clear idea of where we stand and of our performance level, so tonight it will be a matter of tweaking our set-up to improve the balance and be more competitive tomorrow.

Max Verstappen who finished the opening session this morning in 6th place ended the day in 16th place completing 26 laps with a fastest time of 1m 36.917s. Sergio ‘Checco’ Perez ended his day in 17th place for the Sahara Force India Formula One Team after he was involved in a collision with Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Perez completed 33 laps with a fastest time of 1m 37.062s. Speaking following the day of running the Mexican stated:

It's been a good day for us, despite the final incident with Vettel. I was trying to overtake Nasr and, when I got to the apex of turn one, the gap I had on Sebastian was gone, as he had a car problem, and he made light contact with my right rear. After the session he came to see me and said he had an issue with the brakes. It was an unfortunate incident but nothing more than that. Before that moment, we had done a good job throughout the sessions and I feel we have made another step forward. We tried some different set-up options and we had the opportunity to make some big changes between the two sessions. We seem to be a bit more competitive compared to the previous couple of races, especially over the longer runs, but it’s too early to make any predictions.

Sahara Force India Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley stated:

We split an extensive aero test programme between both cars in FP1, gathering lots of data to help us with the correlation of the car. This evening the focus moved towards the long run performance: trying different set-ups between the two cars to give us the information needed to ensure we have the best possible race car come Sunday. We now turn our attention to extracting more qualifying potential from the car and we have plenty of good data to analyse tonight.

The Manor F1 Team’s Will Stevens completed 21 laps with a fastest time of 1m 39.131s and ended the day just ahead of Jenson Button’s McLaren Honda. The 2009 world champion suffered more technical issues following his problems this morning and completed just 15 laps with a fastest time of 1m 39.209s. Roberto Merhi rounded out the times in the second Manor with a time of 1m 40.592s. The Spaniard completed 26 laps.

© Ben Johnston 2015

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