BAR's Jenson Button set the pace on Saturday morning at the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading both practice sessions as the times got faster and faster. Button's best at the close of session two was 1:29.552, with the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and...
BAR's Jenson Button set the pace on Saturday morning at the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading both practice sessions as the times got faster and faster. Button's best at the close of session two was 1:29.552, with the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya just a tenth behind. Buttons teammate Takuma Sato was fourth quickest, half a second down.
For the first session track temperature was around 37 degrees and the air ten degrees lower. Jarno Trulli was the first man on the time sheet, the Renault clocking 1:31.920, a quick time for his first flyer. His teammate Fernando Alonso took four tenths off to go to the top with a 1:31.485.
Nick Heidfeld, who had problems on Friday, was some three seconds off the pace, with Jordan teammate Giorgio Pantano just behind him. Ralf Schumacher put the Williams ahead on his first flyer, 1:30.904 -- already over a second up on yesterday's best times.
Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni was over three seconds down, teammate Zsolt Baumgartner nearly five. Felipe Massa's Sauber came to a halt in the first sector on his first lap out and Kimi Raikkonen slotted the McLaren into third, a second off Ralf. Olivier Panis was the leading Toyota, fifth, with teammate Cristiano da Matta in sixth.
Giancarlo Fisichella fared better than Massa, putting his Sauber eighth and Rubens Barrichello led the charge for Ferrari, second fastest on his first flyer. Michael Schumacher was out on track but pottering about with some installation laps before putting his foot down. He matched brother Ralf in the first sector but then backed off, clocking ninth quickest, followed by Jaguar's Mark Webber into tenth.
Juan Pablo Montoya was next to the top, 1:30.121 for the Williams man, nearly eight tenths up on teammate Ralf. The Colombian was demoted by Jenson Button, 1:30.062, just six hundredths quicker, BAR looking very quick so far this weekend.
Barrichello moved up to third after slipping down the times and the second Jaguar of Christian Klien took eighth on his first flyer, the young Austrian showing good pace. Coulthard continued McLaren's run of bad luck with another puncture, although Raikkonen had a better time of it, finishing sixth fastest. Michael improved to third but it was Button who stayed at the top in session one.
The track temperature climbed to 47 degrees for the second session, which was delayed slightly due to track maintenance. Panis was the first on the time sheet, 1:32.806, followed by BAR's Takuma Sato and Button in quick succession. Michael topped all of them with a 1:30.543, while Montoya was some one and a half seconds down on his first attempt.
Alonso slotted into third fastest, Barrichello into second and Klien took fourth as the times rapidly reshuffled early on. Trulli was next to the top, 1:30.472, with Ralf taking second. Massa got himself out on track in 12th fastest after his aborted first sesssion and Ralf improved to 1:29.690, the first driver into the 1:29 time zone and seven tenths up on Trulli.
It was a quieter second session, with not a great deal of activity. Cristiano da Matta and Panis gave Toyota a boost with fifth and sixth fastest and Baumgartner was the next to hit trouble, coming to a halt in the middle sector. Coulthard and Raikkonen barely put in an appearance, Kimi making a lowly 11th at the end of the session and the Scot not setting a competitive time.
Alonso made a late improvement to fifth and Sato to third. Montoya followed teammate Ralf into the 1:29 bracket, but it was Button who once again triumphed. In the final minutes the Brit belted out a 1:29.552 to take the lead.
Qualifying should see the quickest times yet -- presuming everyone keeps it on the asphalt. There were numerous minor incidents in the practice sessions as drivers were still getting to grips with the new track, so qualifying could be a bit of a lottery. No change on the tyre front, Ferrari still the only Bridgestone runners in the top ten. Final top eight classification: Button, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Sato, M. Schumacher, Trulli, da Matta, Barrichello.