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Friday analysis - who will shine in desert darkness?

04 Apr 2014

None of the teams ventured out on Pirelli’s soft rubber in FP1 in Bahrain on Friday, preferring to save it for FP2 when dusk had fallen, leaving sunlight to be replaced by floodlight. In both sessions the conditions, while different, were consistent, enabling all those whose cars were reliable to complete their programmes. Everyone reported a massive increase in grip on the option tyre. We take a team-by-team look at progress on day one in Sakhir…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 37.502s, P1/1m 34.325s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 37.733s, P2/1m 34.690s, P2

Mercedes had a strong day with few problems, though Rosberg had one lock-up that sent him straight on at Turn 1 in the morning, and another when he failed to make the left-hander in Turn 10 and instead did a 360-degree clockwise sweep before regaining the track in FP2. At the start of that session he was also involved in an incident with Perez, which the stewards investigated. As a result of slowing “unnecessarily and recklessly” in front of the Force India between Turns 13 and 14, Rosberg was reprimanded.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 37.953s, P3/1m 35.360s, P3

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 38.783s, P6/1m 36.366s, P14

P3 in both sessions notwithstanding, Alonso was his usual cautious self after a Friday and said that despite all the testing here over the winter FP1 and FP2 were like starting over again. Raikkonen was unhappy after damaging his floor with an off over a kerb in the first session and generally feeling uncomfortable in the car, and the main development area focused on improving braking stability on both cars.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 40.406s, P14/1m 35.433s, P4

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 39.389s, P10/1m 35.606s, P7

It was a relatively quiet day for Red Bull, with neither driver featuring particularly high up the order in FP1, and Vettel having a problem early on in FP2 with the downshift to third gear. He was also struggling on the medium tyre and was behind Ricciardo. The Australian, remember, will take a 10 place grid drop as part of his unsafe release penalty from Malaysia.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 39.533s, P11/1m 35.442s, P5

Valtteri Bottas (pm only), 1m 35.920s, P11

Felipe Nasr (am only), 1m 40.078s, P13

Williams didn’t see much point in doing a lot of laps since they had so much data from the winter tests in which the FW36 had proved very fast here. Massa did 13 laps, Bottas only nine after handing his car over to rookie Nasr in the morning, when the young Brazilian did a respectable job. Nevertheless, both drivers are hopeful of fighting for top six places tomorrow.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 38.636s, P5/1m 35.528s, P6

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 38.949s, P7/1m 35.662s, P9

McLaren went better than some insiders had expected, thanks in part to the cooler conditions since Malaysia. Button was happy with the way his sessions went, while Magnussen said things were so close that he could as easily be on the fifth row as the second tomorrow.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 39.056s, P8/1m 35.640s, P8

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 39.862s, P12/1m 35.972s, P12

Both drivers reported generally problem-free days, though Vergne spun in Turn 5 in FP2. Kvyat in particular was again impressive, slicing quickly down to a time straight away in each session.

Force India

Sergio Perez, 1m 39.102s, P9/1m 35.802s, P10

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 38.122s, P4/1m 35.998s, P13

Both drivers were satisfied with their running, though interestingly Hulkenberg said that FP2 was much more representative of what to expect for the race because it duplicated the conditions in which it will be run. He had been fourth fastest in FP1…

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 40.652s, P15/1m 36.962s, P15

Esteban Gutierrez (pm only), 1m 36.975s, P16

Giedo van der Garde (am only), 1m 40.913s, P18

Sauber struggled with straight-line speed on high fuel but both Sutil and Gutierrez proved very evenly matched in FP2. The Mexican had handed his C33 over to reserve Van der Garde in FP1, and the Dutchman did a strong job despite several adventures under braking, on his first F1 outing since Brazil last year. In FP2 Sutil rolled to a halt towards the end of the session when the battery ran out of power, and thus missed doing race runs.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 40.793s, P16/1m 37.259s, P17

Romain Grosjean, 1m 41.036s, P19/1m 37.599s, P18

Lotus spent FP1 evaluating aerodynamic upgrades, and had a generally reliable time. In FP2, however, Grosjean lost time while a misfire was investigated, and Maldonado did likewise after aviating over a kerb and damaging his E22. The good news, however, was that they had a much more reliable day than in either Australia or Malaysia, so were able to continue progressing with their understanding of the car.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 40.889s, P17/1m 37.800s, P19

Max Chilton, 1m 41.794s, P20/1m 38.247s, P20

Bianchi did a great job for Marussia in both sessions, but Chilton had a scare in FP2 when his MR03 got away from him and spun wildly in Turn 4 when a front brake disc failed.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi (pm only), 1m 38.257s, P21

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 42.711, P22/1m 39.136s, P22

Robin Frijns (am only), 1m 42.417s, P21

Kobayashi had understeer problems for much of the day and locking front brakes, and then lost time on his best lap on softs when he hit traffic. Ericsson, meanwhile, had a throttle problem as his powertrain delivered its output inconsistently, and eventually was told to stop on the track in FP2 because of a problem with it. Frijns said the CT05 was much better balanced than it had been in the test here and that the 35 laps that he did in FP1 was exactly what the team had been after rather than sheer lap times. Altogether, it was Caterham’s most reliable Friday of the season.