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Some like it hot! Ferrari sets the pace in scorching hot Bahrain GP F1 practice

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Some like it hot! Ferrari sets the pace in scorching hot Bahrain GP F1 practice
Apr 14, 2017, 5:30 PM

Temperatures touched 40 degrees in Bahrain during free practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, as Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time...

Temperatures touched 40 degrees in Bahrain during free practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, as Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the opening day for Ferrari in FP2; three different cars filled the top three places with just 0.06s between them.

But the joint championship leader broke down soon after his starting his race long run attempt with 40 minutes of practice to go. It was Ferrari's second breakdown of the day after Raikkonen stopped out on track in FP1. "Complete shutdown" said Vettel as the power went and the dash display went dark. He managed to get pushed back to the pits.

The scarlet cars had been tipped as the ones to watch ahead of the Bahrain GP weekend, due to the track characteristics and the higher temperatures favouring them over Mercedes.

It was a strange day, where lap times were slower than 2016 pace, partially due to greater drag on the long straights and also the more durable tyre compounds.

In reality the picture is hard to define after Day 1 in terms of outright single lap pace, as none of the Ferrari or Mercedes drivers managed to get their ideal hot lap, due to various factors including brake issues, traffic and vibrations. It allowed Daniel Ricciardo to get closer to the front than at any stage of the season so far.

It dropped a but after sunset to 33 degrees, but the good news for teams and drivers is that forecasts suggest that it will be cooler on Sunday for the race. This will make the information gained from today's FP2 session less relevant and could affect the decisions the teams make in the race.

The fastest time of the day was 1m 31.310s, compared to last year's fastest FP2 time by Nico Rosberg of 1m 31.001s.

The qualifying simulation runs began after around half an hour of FP2 and Vettel was straight out on supersoft tyres, setting a lap of 1m 31.310s, due to a small twitch on the exit of the final corner. He complained that the brakes had been a problem in the second part of the lap.

Valtteri Bottas

Bottas went next; closely matching Vettel's sector 1 and sector 2 times and was just 4/100ths of a second off the Ferrari. As in China his T wing parted company with the car.

Lewis Hamilton then went out on supersofts and had to back off after the first sector on both his initial attack laps, the second time being blocked by Nico Hulkenberg in Turn 10, "These drivers are so dangerous man," said Hamilton.

Hamilton set the fourth fastest fastest time despite this with a clean lap, putting him just 0.066s off Vettel's time.

A few minutes prior to that Hulkenberg put in a great lap in the Renault, just half a second off Vettel's time.

Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen also failed to set his ideal lap, complaining about vibration from the tyres and going third, just 0.168s after three attempts.

Nico Hulkenberg

Race indicators - Long run pace

It looks very close on the long run pace too.

When the leaders switched over to the long runs, Red Bulls came to the fore and both drivers were able to match the pace of the Ferraris and Mercedes, for the most part on super softs. The pace settled down to 1m36s and 1m37s, after some initial degradation that settled down on the supersofts. The tyre was able to do 20 laps maintaining good pace,but dropping off towards the end to high 1m 37s. Sunday's race is 56 laps

However there were clear indications that the soft is the better race tyre. Vettel looked competitive on the Soft tyre, setting 1m 36s on the tyre; he also practiced starts on the Soft tyres, perhaps suggesting that Ferrari are assessing whether an alternative start tyre strategy, taking Soft tyres in Q2. It will depend on whether they think they have the single lap pace to get pole ahead of Mercedes.

Ricciardo switched on to the softs and was also competitive, Red Bull again looking much better in race trim than qualifying. Hamilton was quicker still on softs, with laps in the low 1m36s, as was Raikkonen.

One worrying sign for the close racing on Sunday was that Vettel was told to "cool the brakes" after following closely behind Bottas. Following another car has been a strong quality for the Ferraris.

Ferrari has some significant improvements on its car this weekend, with a new front wing and updates on the floor. "They are the favourites going into this race, " said Hamilton. "They have a nimble car, it's light on the tyres."

Felipe Massa set the 7th fastest time for Williams ahead of Verstappen, Grosjean and Kvyat.

Stoffel Vandoorne had to wait for his car to be ready in FP2 after an engine change due to a breakdown in FP1. Kimi Raikkonen also broke down in FP1, but was good to go from the start of FP2 in the Ferrari. This is one of Raikkonen's strongest circuits and Ferrari is looking for him to get his first podium of the season to aid their challenge for the Constructors' Championship.

Carlos Sainz was an early victim in FP2, breaking down in a plums of smoke after just 15 minutes.

Pre-race models showed that the fastest way to do the race would be a two stop strategy of supersoft-soft-soft. Engineers will be reviewing that tonight in light of the data from today.

What did you make of the Friday running in Bahrain? Who do you think will be fastest this weekend out of Ferrari and Mercedes.

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