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FP2 - Mercedes reveal their true Sakhir speed

17 Apr 2015

After the scorching sunshine of the day’s opening session, Friday evening’s floodlit second practice in Bahrain was far more representative of the conditions teams will face in Sunday’s race. And as the temperatures dropped in the desert, it was championship leaders Mercedes who turned up the heat.

After their deliberately low-key showing in FP1, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished a clear one-two, just a tenth of a second apart. However, the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were only half a second off the Silver Arrows’ pace and the signs are that they could be close enough in qualifying and the race to pose a significant challenge.

Hamilton lost no time in setting the best lap on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres of 1m 36.795s, but Vettel was only 0.100s slower. But on the soft rubber it was Rosberg who set the pace from Hamilton, with 1m 34.647s to 1m 34.762s. Hamilton, however, had made a small mistake locking his right front tyre under heavy braking for Turn 8, and appeared to lose more than the 0.115s that separated them.

FP1 pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen was Ferrari’s fastest runner in third with 1m 35.174s to Vettel’s 1m 35.277s. Right at the end the German was involved in a small incident with Force India’s Sergio Perez which briefly brought out the red flag as debris was removed from the circuit.

Coming down to Turn 1, Perez dived inside Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, which was running to the left; Vettel, having exited the pits, was on the inside, and Perez, in the middle, caught the Ferrari’s left front wing endplate as he turned in. Vettel immediately reported over the radio that he had lost braking, and after an investgation the stewards determined that neither the Ferrari driver nor Perez was to blame. 

The stewards are also investigating Hamilton and Raikkonen for leaving the pit lane incorrectly when the session resumed.

Altogether this was a more cohesive session than the first, with fewer surprises, and began with a track temperature of 36 degrees Celsius which slowly declined to 32.

Valtteri Bottas took fifth for Williams, close to Vettel on 1m 35.280s, as Daniel Ricciardo stayed within striking distance for Red Bull on 1m 35.449s and was chased by Pastor Maldonado’s improving Lotus on 1m 35.474s. A little further back, Nasr continued his good work for Sauber with 1m 35.793s as Daniil Kvyat, who complained of loss of power on his Red Bull, just shaded Williams’ Felipe Massa, with 1m 35.883s to 1m 35.884s.

Marcus Ericsson was 11th in the second Sauber on 1m 36.148s, just edging out Fernando Alonso’s 1m 36.191s for McLaren. After completing just two laps in FP1, Jenson Button again had a tough time in the second MP4-30, which this time ground to a halt at Turn 11 after he’d posted 1m 39.209s. The car was retrieved and McLaren got it going again, but he wasn’t able to improve on that and ended the session 19th.

Romain Grosjean struggled as he got his Lotus E23 Hybrid back from Jolyon Palmer, and was an unhappy 13th on 1m 36.334s, after becoming one of many to experience serious front brake locking and resultant departures from his chosen line. He headed Carlos Sainz on 1m 36.471s in the lead Toro Rosso, Nico Hulkenberg in the lead Force India on 1m 36.805s, and Max Verstappen, who had spent a lot of time in the garage having his STR10 adjusted, 16th on 1m 36.917s.

Perez’s best was 1m 37.063s, which left him ahead of Will Stevens on 1m 39.131s in the lead Marrusia, Button and Roberto Merhi in the other Marussia on 1m 40.592s.