The Mercedes duo have continued their domination by topping the times in the first two practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton topped both free practice sessions leading team-mate Nico Rosberg by two and three tenths in FP1 and FP2. It was an ominous shot to the chasing teams as Hamilton was over a second faster than Fernando Alonso in the second practice session. Ferrari have a successful history at the Bahrain Grand Prix but initial signs suggest they – and every other team – will be hard pressed to get ahead of Mercedes. Joining the regular race drivers in FP1 were test drivers Felipe Nasr, Giedo van der Garde, and Robin Frijns for Williams, Sauber and Caterham respectively. Nasr was juggling his GP2 commitments with his Williams test driver duties and he set the 13th fastest time in FP1, just five tenths off team-mate Felipe Massa.
Rosberg did have problems in the initial stages of FP1 reporting power issues to the team. The problem did not keep him in the garage for long, however. It was a quiet start to FP1 for most drivers but in the last half an hour all cars took to the track to set some lap times. Ferrari suffered a blunder as they sent Fernando Alonso out with three medium tyres and a soft tyre. In the other Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen was sent airborne after hitting the kerbs – a move that required the team to work on damage to his floor. Despite the mistake it was Alonso who got closest to Mercedes in FP1, finishing four tenths down on Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg ended the session in fifth ahead of Jenson Button, Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez, and Sebastian Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas, Kamui Kobayashi and Esteban Gutierrez returned to their cars for the second free practice session. This was once again topped by Hamilton, leading the way from Rosberg and Alonso. This time there was a bigger one second gap between Hamilton and Alonso, as the Mercedes stretched its legs and extended the gap to the rest of the field. Rosberg received a reprimand after the session ended due to slowing dramatically and causing Sergio Perez to swerve to avoid him. The session started at the same time as the race will on Sunday with the sun starting to set.
The Toro Rosso duo of Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne had to contend with downshift problems in the early phases of FP2. Drivers also put on the soft tyres to set some faster lap times with Perez setting a fast lap-time before being beaten by Rosberg and then Hamilton. In the second half of the session, however, concentration swapped to higher fuel runs. Yellow flags were brought out for Max Chilton – who stopped due to loss of power and front left brake disc failure – and Adrian Sutil. Ericsson also brought out a yellow flag. Up at the front it was Hamilton leading the way from Rosberg and Alonso. Daniel Ricciardo ended up fourth for Red Bull with Massa fifth, Button sixth, Vettel seventh and Kvyat eighth. Magnussen and Perez rounded out the top ten.