Bahrain GP | Vettel fastest again, as FP2 traffic halts Hamilton

Vettel continues to set the pace in FP2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The floodlights flickered on, Ferrari finished fettling and Formula One refuelled for the final 90-minutes of Friday running. Yet when those 90-minutes came to an end, Ferrari continued to head the field as supersoft tyres could not demote Vettel. A late issue, however, took the shine off Ferrari’s day.

Friday practice may not have begun in the best fashion for the Scuderia Ferrari team. Seeing Kimi Raikkonen park up and begin a desert walk back to the pits midway through the opening session. Forcing the Maranello men to swap his engine in order for him to run again.

But their afternoon ended with a smile as Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the opening session. Leading Daniel Ricciardo as Mercedes completed their scheduled running prior to the best track conditions.

McLaren’s might were also fettling away at their Honda power unit come the first chequered flag. As Stoffel Vandoorne’s power unit packed up and needed a replacement for the evening’s activities. But with Vandoorne’s first practice lasting longer than Raikkonen’s, McLaren did not begin work till a later point – leaving Stoffel waiting in the wings come the start of FP2.

Waiting from the wings, Vandoorne would witness another driver suffer an engine failure in Bahrain. As Carlos Sainz was forced to park his Toro Rosso early on, with smoke flowing from the cola-branded car.

While Sainz parked up, Hamilton was setting the pace. Edging Bottas and Vettel, as just one-thousandth of a second split the Finn from the German – the same margin the stopped Valtteri from taking a front row place in China, instead of Sebastian.

When the Virtual Safety Car for Sainz’s Toro Rosso cleared, however, Raikkonen took to setting the pace. Moving into P1 by one-hundredth of a second.

Soon after, though, supersoft tyres were being fitted up and down the paddock. Enough to promote Vettel into the top spot as he lowered his personal best by 1.3 seconds thanks to a string of purple sector times.

Vettel’s sectors may not have been perfect, however. With Valtteri soon following up by bettering the Ferrar’s first and final sectors. But falling short of the top by four-hundredths of a second.

When Hamilton came to set a flying lap on supersoft tyres, his red-branded Pirelli rubber had already had four laps of life taken from them. With traffic halting the Briton’s progress on route to fifth place.

One driver particularly halting Hamilton’s progress was Nico Hulkenberg. With the Renault driver sticking to the racing line through Turn 9 despite Hamilton approaching at a faster rate. As a result, Hamilton locked up heavily and carried straight on through the corner. Leaving the stewards with a delayed investigation into the incident.

As Hamilton then crawled around the circuit, Bottas blew down his inside at T12. But while doing so, his T-Wing flew from his Mercedes. A worrying incident following its detachment in Shanghai too. But worse was later on, as Verstappen drove straight over the detached part – unsettling his ‘Bull.

Driving over the detached part also caused damage to the Red Bull’s floor, prior to marshals removing it from the track.

As for Hulkenberg, his pace on the supersoft tyres left his Renault just half a second down on Vettel’s pace. Bettering the times being set by Massa (2-tenths), Verstappen (4-tenths) and Grosjean (6-tenths).

A lot further down the timesheet, Pascal Wehrlein and Stoffel Vandoorne occupied the would-be back row of the grid.

For Pascal, the German’s return saw him struggle. Running off track numerous times as the front right wheel lifted during right-handed corners. Suggesting a suspension failure, but Sauber could have been trying a softer rear anti-roll bar in order to ease rear tyre stress.

Meanwhile, at McLaren, Vandoorne could only join the track 40 minutes into the session. Leaving him routed to the bottom of the leaderboard and only able to get a handful of laps under his belt on the soft compound tyres before being told not to put to much stress on the engine as he was forced back into the pits.

Issues also crept into the Ferrari garage in FP2. With Sebastian Vettel suffering from a “complete shutdown” as his steering wheel display and engine both cut out like Raikkonen’s in the earlier session.

Quick reactions from Seb saw the German loosen his seatbelts in order to reach out and press the gearbox neutral button on top of the car. Allowing the Ferrari to coast back down the hill and return to the pits for inspection. A successful move by Vettel that allowed the team to send the car back out for a race simulation. A simulation that included closely following a Mercedes on track with his team-mate sat behind.

Pos Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 29 1’31.310
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 35 1’31.351 0.041
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 28 1’31.376 0.066
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 34 1’31.478 0.168
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 35 1’31.594 0.284
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 37 1’31.883 0.573
7 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 37 1’32.079 0.769
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 18 1’32.245 0.935
9 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 34 1’32.505 1.195
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 35 1’32.707 1.397
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 33 1’32.854 1.544
12 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 38 1’32.875 1.565
13 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 38 1’32.876 1.566
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 31 1’32.897 1.587
15 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 34 1’33.319 2.009
16 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 36 1’33.361 2.051
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 34 1’33.944 2.634
18 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 5 1’34.072 2.762
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 29 1’34.117 2.807
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 8 1’34.230 2.92