Kimi Raikkonen opens the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time in first free practice, in a Ferrari 1-2.
Kimi’s 1:37.827 found the Finn on top of the time sheet, whilst the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg sat in 15th and 16th, almost two seconds back.
The first session of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend kicked into gear under the afternoon sun in Sakhir. With track temperature at 52°C, and the air temperature at 36°, the heat in Bahrain is one of the many obstacles the teams and drivers have to overcome across the weekend. Let alone the time zone changes following last week’s Chinese Grand Prix.
First to take to the track today was the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. But the duo were not alone as a stream of cars joined them straight on track, including Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa. In fact, 15 drivers had already taken to the track within the first two minutes.
However, that number was reduced one minute later when Jenson Button span at turn one and exited the cockpit. After thundering down the pit straight with the DRS open, Jenson braked normally for the corner but as he reached the turning point the rear stepped out and he was unable to regain control. Worse for McLaren was that during the spin Jenson’s Honda engine shutdown mid way through the corner meaning Button had no chance of getting the car going again.
After Jenson’s car was clear from the track, the first time was posted courtesy of Nico Rosberg on a 1:40.077. When Hamilton set his opening time, he found himself 1 second down on Rosberg.
Sebastian Vettel also suffered a power unit issue shortly after posting the fastest lap of the session by four thousandths of a second to Bottas. Seb soon radioed in claiming “I’ve lost power” before coasting around the track as Raikkonen moved two tenths clear. Vettel was able to return to action later on in the session as the issue turned out not to be too serious.
When the field returned to the pits to hand back their tyres for the opening 30 minutes, the order sat with Raikkonen leading from Vettel, Bottas, Kvyat, Ericsson, Perez, Massa, Maldonado, Rosberg, Sainz, Verstappen, Alonso, Nasr, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Palmer, Hamilton (17th), Stevens, Merhi and Button. Jolyon Palmer was once again sitting in for Grosjean in FP1, like he did last weekend in China.
After a few moments of silence, the Mercedes’ men returned to the track on fresh mediums. Hamilton initially moved up from 17th place to go P5 but remained six tenths down on Raikkonen. Whereas Rosberg moved up to P4, pushing Lewis down to sixth.
On a later run, Palmer managed to move ahead of both Mercedes’ with a 1:39.283. But with 39 minutes remaining, Fernando Alonso moved his McLaren into P1 on a 1:39.598 to go ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez at the top. But McLaren’s moment at the top was short lived and Verstappen soon moved his Toro Rosso onto the top spot by 1 tenth of a second as the track temperature began to drop as the grip levels rose.
As the session entered the final thirty minutes, Verstappen continued to lead from Alonso, Perez, Maldonado and Raikkonen. But soon after the session broke into the final thirty, Riccardo moved ahead and claimed P1 with a 1:38.455. But even his time would not last long as Bottas moved on top once again, this time by six hundredths of a second.
Inside the final 10 minutes, the two Ferrari’s both improved to go P1 and P2 with Raikkonen knocking Vettel down to second by 2 tenths. Then as the session came to a close the Ferrari men saw no challenge to their 1-2 position and held on till the chequered flag.
Mercedes did not run their drivers again in the later stages of the session meaning they finished the running amongst the back of the field. Alonso on the other hand finished the session amongst the front of the field whilst his McLaren team mate was the only driver to fail to set a time.