Sand stops F1 in Bahrain, sunny day in Jerez

Betcha didn't see that coming. After glorying in several hours of sunshine, warm temps and work done Tuesday, Formula One teams testing at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on Wednesday began the day with "perfect weather" then were slapped...

Betcha didn't see that coming. After glorying in several hours of sunshine, warm temps and work done Tuesday, Formula One teams testing at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on Wednesday began the day with "perfect weather" then were slapped back into the garage by a sandstorm. Activities stopped on track at midmorning when blowing sand obscured visibility sufficiently that the medical helicopter could not fly. Although air temperatures rose to above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and track temps to nearly 80, that did Ferrari, BMW Sauber and Toyota little good.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa set fast lap in the F60 in the limited running done. The Brazilian drove a fast lap of 1 minute, 33.639 seconds in 17 laps.

"Obviously, it's a little frustrating that we could hardly drive today, due to the wind and the sand," Massa said. "But there's nothing we can do about it. We just have to accept it. Although I have to say I'm quite satisfied with the work done so far here at Sakhir. Yesterday, we drove many kilometers and the car was better than at Mugello, more stable and easier to drive, with constant lap times. The team has been working very hard over the last weeks as far as setup is concerned, and we could already see the results. After a minor problem with the software yesterday, today, at least for the laps we did, we were able to use the KERS as we should. There's still a lot of work to do here and and [sic] in other areas, but I think that we're heading in the right direction."

A bit of sand couldn't jam the gears for Massa, who let slip the 2008 world driving championship runner-up's real priorities.

"I was lucky and could watch the match," Massa said of a 2-0 victory by Brazil over Italy in an international football friendly at London's Wembley Stadium. "You can't miss Italy playing Brazil. I was very happy that my team made it, especially after some not very good matches. They showed that they still have a great fighting spirit. Thanks to the result, I had a good day today with the members of the team. If we had lost, then I would have heard many jokes, for sure. But instead, it was me cracking the jokes."

Massa is scheduled to hand off testing duties to teammate Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday.

BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica, whose national footie team played Wales on Wednesday, got the F1.09 out for 22 laps of the 3.362-mile circuit with a fast lap of 1:34.398. The Pole was able to complete some development work, but certainly less than the scheduled aims. He returns Thursday.

Timo Glock continued Toyota's test of the TF109. He put in a 1:34.902 in 14 laps.

Over in sunny southern Spain at 2.75-mile Circuito de Jerez, teams enjoyed air temps of nearly 65 degrees and track temps of nearly 85 as Renault, Williams, McLaren, Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso continued testing.

As he has done with regularity, Sebastien Buemi topped time charts. The Swiss driver pounded out a day-high 143 laps in last year's STR3 modified as best could be to resemble 2009 specifications --slick tires, for instance. Buemi scored a 1:17.591 best lap, inching closer to a 1:17.258 he recorded at Jerez in previous testing.

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen led the way among 2009ish cars with 110 laps on the MP4-24, best of which was 1:20.799. His tasks included honing setup and adding mileage to the KERS device, which he did with several lengthy runs. The MP4-24 ran not with a 2009 rear wing but with a modified 2008 rear wing. Kovalainen is scheduled to hand off to world driving champ Lewis Hamilton on Thursday.

Mark Webber of Red Bull was back in a car, Red Bull's RB5, after colliding in November with a stout rig of a four-wheel drive vehicle as he careered around a Tasman corner on his mountain bike during his eponymous endurance challenge. The Australian put his broken right leg through 83 laps with a best of 1:21.321.

Kazuki Nakajima stepped into the Williams FW31 and fired off 125 laps with a best of 1:21.451 as he made up for time lost to a washed-out test in Portugal last month.

"Kazuki covered over 550 kilometers (341.75 miles) while undertaking mechanical setup tests," team technical director Sam Michael said. "He also completed a full race simulation without issue. We are looking forward to another productive day tomorrow, when we will carry out more tuning work on the FW31 in preparation for the first grand prix."

Limited by Tuesday's rain and a few technical issues, Renault's Nelson Piquet returned to action Wednesday to add mileage, check on reliability, and evaluate the KERS kit on the R29. The Brazilian entering his second season as an F1 race driver completed 49 laps with a best of 1:21.908.

The only absent team, Force India, is not testing this month. The season starts March 29 in Australia.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Kimi Raikkonen , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Kazuki Nakajima , Sébastien Buemi
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams