Ferrari's Felipe Massa led teammate Kimi Raikkonen on Friday as the Italian team topped time charts in both practice sessions for Sunday's Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. To no one's surprise, Ferraris and McLarens crowded the top of the ...
Ferrari's Felipe Massa led teammate Kimi Raikkonen on Friday as the Italian team topped time charts in both practice sessions for Sunday's Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. To no one's surprise, Ferraris and McLarens crowded the top of the order.
Massa's fast lap, 1 minute, 31.420 seconds, took nearly a second off his teammate's best time and required nearly all of the allotted practice time to achieve on the notoriously green 3.366-mile Bahrain International Circuit. The mostly flat, featureless track suffers winds sweeping sand across the macadam that makes laying down rubber and getting to quick times difficult.
Massa, who took pole and victory a year ago, nipped past Raikkonen at the last moment to propose promise again as he has the past two races without delivering as much on Sundays. Raikkonen, third last year, only marginally improved his pace from one session to the next.
Ferrari and Toyota were the only two teams to carry out winter testing at the Sakhir track.
The afternoon came to an abrupt end for world driving title leader Lewis Hamilton, who slammed his McLaren MP4-23 into a wall with less than 10 minutes remaining in the session after running wide onto curbing. He ended the session fourth fastest, behind teammate Heikki Kovalainen. He ran fourth-fastest behind Nico Rosberg's Williams in the first session.
"It was a shame that I ended what had been a productive day going off the circuit and hitting the barriers at Turn Seven," Hamilton said. "I was just pushing and sometimes these things happen. I am absolutely fine, and, hopefully, the damage to the car is not too bad. We would have had to change our engine and gearbox anyway so, hopefully, I am not going to be too unpopular with the boys in the garage."
Rosberg disrupted morning practice order, placing himself between the Ferraris and the McLarens. Fellow Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima followed in sixth-best time. The Japanese was eighth-best, behind Scot David Coulthard, in the second session.
"I am happier with the car here compared to the last race in Malaysia and I think we are back to normal now, which is encouraging," Rosberg said. "The circuit surface suits our car better, which in turn made it much more enjoyable to drive."
Once Ferraris and McLarens filled the top of the order, BMW Sauber, Williams and Red Bull fought for the next spots. After sharp showing in first practice, third and sixth, respectively, Rosberg and Nakajima took sixth and eighth, respectively, in second practice. Robert Kubica's effort in the BMW Sauber was next best, seventh in first practice and fifth in the second. The Pole's teammate, German Nick Heidfeld, who bagged fastest lap in the Malaysian race two weeks ago, languished in the 1:34s as he struggled for balance and grip.
Red Bull's Coulthard also showed consistently, in ninth and seventh.
"I like this circuit," Coulthard said. "Today went quite well and we've gained some good information, but we've still got quite a challenge to improve traction and rear stability ahead of tomorrow."
Red Bull's Mark Webber picked up only a couple tenths from one session to the next, hanging in the charts at 12th and 13th. Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Bourdais pushed into the top 10 in the first session but fell to 15th in the second. Sebastian Vettel of STR had a dismal time, slowing down from one session to the next, to claim nothing better than 16th in the opening session and 20th in the second.
Jarno Trulli put the Toyota TF108 into eighth spot in the morning practice but fell three-tenths off his time in the second round and fell to 14th, just ahead of teammate Timo Glock, whose morning effort produced 11th. Glock shaved nearly a tenth off his early time but wound up 15th.
"That was a reasonable day of practice for us," Trulli said. "The track surface was predictably dusty and slippery this morning. It was also quite windy today, with gusts from different directions in the two sessions. We were fighting with the wind and we still need to improve the car a bit in general. We tested here in February so things pretty much went as we expected today. This is a nice challenging track and I have always been pretty strong here so I am looking forward to this weekend."
Suffering mediocrity were Renault and Honda. Double world champion Fernando Alonso could do no better than 10th and 12th through the day. His rookie teammate, Nelson A. Piquet, reached 10th in the second practice. Although Jenson Button lowered his time by more than a second from the first practice to the second, his Honda couldn't go better than 11th at best. No surprise, he complained about brakes on a track known to be hard on brakes. Honda teammate Rubens Barrichello similarly lowered his time impressively but could rise no higher than 16th up the charts.
Giancarlo Fisichella took Force India to 17th best in the first practice but slid to 18th by the second. His teammate, Adrian Sutil, impeded Alonso in taking a second off his morning time but only finished the second session in 19th.
Takuma Sato and teammate Anthony Davidson traded bottom of the chart places, their quickest times four seconds off Massa's pace.