Five days ago Lewis Hamilton celebrated on the top step of the Sepang podium after winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, and on the opening day of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend the Mercedes driver topped the time sheets at the end of Free Practice 1 with his teammate Nico Rosberg next best.
Hamilton’s best time of 1:37.502 was 0.231 faster than Rosberg, and almost a half second up on Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.
There was a Keystone Cops moment at Ferrari when they sent Alonso out with a Pirelli Soft tyre on the front left and a Medium compound tyre on the front right, when the penny dropped the Spaniard stopped in the pit lane whereupon the Ferrari mechanics retrieved the F14T. A ‘red-face moment’ for the Reds.
At one stage during the session Mercedes powered cars hogged the top five positions on the timing screens, with Nico Hulkenberg right in there, and finishing fourth fastest when the 90 minute session was flagged. Team mate Sergio Perez was ninth fastest, but over a second down on ‘The Hulk’.
Jenson Button was fifth fastest in the McLaren, albeit over a second down on the top time with rookie teammate Kevin Magnussen seventh fastest.
Splitting the McLaren pair was Kimi Raikkonen who set the sixth best time, which was 0.830 of a second adrift of his Ferrari teammate Alonso.
Fastest of the Renault brigade was rookie Daniil Kvyat, who ended the session eighth fastest in the Toro Rosso.
Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten in the Red Bull, 1.887 slower than Hamilton’s best.
Notably down the order was Daniel Ricciardo who was 14th, but a whopping three seconds adrift of the benchmark time.
Even further down the order were the Lotus duo with Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, 16th and 19th respectively, both managing decent mileage but struggling to squeeze pace from the E22.
Reserve Drivers in action on the day included; Williams’ Felipe Nasr making his Free Practice debut in place of Valtteri Bottas, he ended 13th fastest; Sauber’s Giedo van der Garde was 18th, in place of Esteban Gutierrez; and Caterham’s highly rated Robin Frijns, in place of Kamui Kobayashi, was 0.3 secs faster than teammate Marcus Ericsson who was slowest of all.
It is early days in Bahrain and perhaps a tad too early to be making assumptions, however one can take for granted that Mercedes will be strong this weekend as they set about their business with ease, with Ferrari appearing to be up for the chase, although Alonso in particular was really thrashing it about, as the Renault posse play catch-up again or perhaps they have yet to unleash their firepower…
Subbed by AJN.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 – Friday, 4 April 2014
|4||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.122||0.620||10|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.102||1.600||21|
|10||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.389||1.887||16|
|14||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:40.406||2.904||19|
|18||36||Giedo van der Garde||Sauber-Ferrari||1:40.913||3.411||20|