Bahrain Grand Prix Practice: Ferrari look a major threat to Mercedes

Hamilton ahead of Vettel, Charlie Wright, Kettle Mag
Written by F1_Charlie

After finishing the opening session one and two, Ferrari started off the day by firing a warning shot at Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen hadn’t topped a single session all season until he found himself setting the pace after the morning’s running. Ferrari’s good form continued into the afternoon; we could be in for a titanic battle come Sunday evening. This weekend looks to be a four horse race for the first time in recent memory.

With Bahrain being the first night race of the season the opening session took place in the mid afternoon sun. The track and ambient temperatures were not a true reflection of what the teams will come across, meaning the times in the first session counted for very little. With that in mind Mercedes went about looking at long runs and not ultimate lap time. 

Whist the Ferrari duo of Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel set the pace, Mercedes found themselves in unfamiliar territory, the defending champions only managing times good enough for 15th and 16th. Vettel’s morning did not go quite to plan. Although he recovered later on the German suffered reliability problems early on and was forced to sit out the majority of the session.

In FP2 Mercedes began to stretch their legs. Whilst Nico Rosberg did end the day with the fastest time with a 1:39.293s, it was Hamilton that was on for the quickest time until he made a small error that cost him on his low-fuel option tyre run. Locking brakes were a common occurrence throughout the day, even the two-time champion not immune from mistakes. Over one lap Mercedes do have a clear advantage over Ferrari, but on the long runs Ferrari seem to have Mercedes’ number, which both Rosberg and Hamilton both labelled as “dangerous”. The Mercedes camp will be working tirelessly in the run up and throughout FP3 tomorrow to see if they can claw back their performance advantage. 

With strong pace on the prime tyre Ferrari are really in the mix, however reliability could get in the way. In addition to his woes in FP1, Vettel suffered a brake problem as he exited the pits late on. The German slowed as much as he could to try let the Force India of Sergio Perez past. However it was too little too late. Vettel gently tapped Perez resulting in the German damaging his front wing. The incident was looked at by the stewards, but thankfully they declared that no one was at fault.

McLaren had a real up and down day to say the least. Jenson Button fell victim to an ERS issue on his first timed lap of the day. The Brit lost power under braking which resulted in a spin. His problems continued into the evening session. After losing all of FP1, Button was in dire need of having an incident free FP2 but this was too much to ask. Button again ran into problems as his engine shut down.

In contrast, there was reason to be cheerful on the other side of the garage. Fernando Alonso even led briefly in FP1. If the team can sort out their reliability problems and Honda can develop their power unit they would be in a much stronger position. Alonso finished in 12th.

Red Bull had already been warned by engine supplier Renault to not get their hopes up for a strong weekend in Bahrain, Last weekend the team suffered with a number of components such as brakes and engine, however, things seemed to be better today. Daniel Ricciardo finished in 6th ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat in 9th. Sister team Toro Rosso did not have the best of days. Max Verstappen had issues with his brakes during the second session and needed them changed, the young Dutchman finishing two places behind Carlos Sainz in 16th.

Pastor Maldonado did not have the smoothest of starts to the day as he encountered a number of off-track incidents during the first session which included a bizarre moment at the final corner where he seemed to drive off the circuit mistaking the gravel on the exit of the final corner for tarmac. He got his act together by the time the green light shone in FP2. After missing out on FP1, birthday boy Romain Grosjean managed 31 laps, good enough for 13th. Grosjean made way for reserve driver Jolyon Palmer in the first session of the day.

Ahead of qualifying tomorrow it seems as if Mercedes have the front row locked out but, come Sunday, they will not be able to run and hide. Whilst the Silver Arrow’s enjoy a strong half a second gap over the Ferrari over one lap on the option tyre, they just about have their noses in front in high fuel and prime tyres.

Below are the practice two times:

1Nico RosbergMercedes 1:34.647s
2Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 0.115s
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari + 0.527s
4Sebastian VettelFerrari + 0.630s
5Valtteri BottasWilliams Mercedes + 0.633s
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Renault + 0.802s
7Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes + 0.827s
8Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari + 1.146s
9Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault + 1.236s
10Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes + 1.237s
11Marucs EricssonSauber Ferrari + 1.501s
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda + 1.544s
13Romain GrosjeanLotus Mercedes + 1.687s
14Carlos SainzSTR Renault + 1.824s
15Nico HulkenbergForce India Mercedes + 2.158s
16Max VerstappenSTR Renault + 2.270s
17Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes + 2.415s
18Will StevensMarssuia Ferrari + 4.484s
19Jenson ButtonMcLaren Honda + 4.562s
20Roberto MerhiMarussia Ferrari + 5.975s