Mercedes were back on top in Bahrain after Nico Rosberg topped the second free practice session.
Rosberg’s lap of 1:34.647 saw the German finish the session on top in more comparable conditions than the opening free practice session. Hamilton came a close second to Rosberg in FP2, with just 0.115 seconds between them.
FP1 earlier in the day saw high temperatures create an unrepresentative session of the weekend. Regardless, it was a Ferrari 1-2 when the chequered flag fell.
Kimi Raikkonen managed to beat team mate Sebastian Vettel to the top spot, but the surprise at the top order was the inclusion of Fernando Alonso. Fellow McLaren man, Button, sat out most of the session and was joined at the bottom of the time sheet by both Mercedes’.
Nevertheless, the start of FP2 came as the sun set and the artificial lights beamed over the track with Massa venturing out. The start of the second free practice session was also the same time as the race on Sunday making the session far more representative given the similar conditions.
After Felipe Massa crossed the line, we had the first timed lap of the session but the Brazilian’s 1:38.541 was instantly beaten by his team mate as Bottas moved ahead by just 0.001 seconds.
The initial times by the two Williams drivers were both six seconds faster than Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez’s but on Kimi’s next time around, he moved clear by one second.
Within the first 15 minutes of the session, Kimi was pushed back to third by Hamilton and Vettel. But Lewis was finding out the hard way exactly where it becomes too late to brake for turn 1.
But avoiding a lock up at turn one and going into the run off area for Lewis was nothing compared to Jenson Button. The McLaren driver only managed to get into his second lap in the first three minutes of FP1 before a spin brought his session to an end. Then in FP2, Jenson only managed three laps in the first 17 minutes of the session before coming to a halt at turn 11.
As the opening 30 minutes came to and end, the first runs on the soft compound tyres began to be carried out. First of which was carried out by Kimi Raikkonen who moved into P1 by 1.6 seconds after finding around two seconds with the option tyres. Kimi’s time could have been beaten by Vettel soon after, but the German scuppered a lap with personal bests in the first two sectors by running wide due to understeer at turn 15.
Hamilton managed to move four tenths clear of Raikkonen once the 2014 World Champion posted his first flyer on the soft tyres. However a lock up at turn 8 caused Lewis to lose time in the middle sector and allow Rosberg to better his flyer by one tenth of a second.
As the session progressed, long runs began to be put together in preparation for Sunday’s race. But for Button, McLaren had been able to get him back out but he was only able to put a short stint together before returning to the garage once more. Luckily for him, he was able to get more track time later into the session.
On a run with high full on 12 lap old soft tyres, Vettel continued to put together a string of consecutive lap times under the 1 minute 40 mark. If Ferrari can keep life in their tyres and utilise the life to stretch out stints, the Scuderia team could see their men fighting it out with Mercedes on Sunday in a bid for another high scoring finish.
As for Grosjean, he sat in 13th place from his earlier personal best but for his long run pace, he was putting together consecutive times on the medium tyres within the a 1:43’s. Given the gap between his times and Ferrari’s, along with the tyre difference, Lotus could be able to score more points this weekend.
But as the session entered the final 10 minutes, the red flag waved after parts of Vettel’s front wing sprawled across the first corner. Vettel had just left the pit lane and was slowing for the first corner as he suffered a suspected brake failure causing him to not slow enough. But as he made his way towards the corner, Sergio Perez was making his way into turn one on a timed lap but clipped Seb’s front wing and flung pieces across the track. After returning to the paddock, Seb accepted it was not Perez’s fault and apologised for the incident.
Following the red flag, just a few minutes remained before the chequered flag but in that time, all but 5 drivers were out on track. However those drivers were not pushing for fastest laps and instead continued on with their programmes.
For Rosberg, his programme was brought to an early end after the team noticed something in their telemetry that they did not like and called for their man to box.
This left Nico Rosberg in P1, with a one tenth gap to second place Lewis. Raikkonen’s time remained in third whilst Vettel’s lap that included the scruffy final corner remained in fourth.
Fifth placed Bottas and 13th placed Grosjean were covered by just one second. Those midfield positions were also including Fernando Alonso who once again managed to push the McLaren further up the time sheet.
After the chequered flag fell, race control issued an investigation into how Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton rejoined the track following the safety car. The two drivers flowed behind Ericsson as he lined his Sauber up for a practice start but in doing so put themselves in a precarious position in the eyes of the sports’ rules.