Bahrain Practice 1: Hamilton tops as Mercedes flex their muscles again

Lewis Hamilton fastest in FP1

Lewis Hamilton fastest in FP1

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’.

Nico Rosberg second fastest

Nico Rosberg second fastest

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.

Fernando Alonso third fastest in FP1

Fernando Alonso third fastest in FP1

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

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.502 14
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.733 0.231 13
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.953 0.451 17
4 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:38.122 0.620 10
5 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.636 1.134 16
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.783 1.281 12
7 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.949 1.447 15
8 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:39.056 1.554 24
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
11 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:39.533 2.031 11
12 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:39.862 2.360 26
13 40 Felipe Nasr Williams-Mercedes 1:40.078 2.576 14
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:40.406 2.904 19
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.652 3.150 20
16 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:40.793 3.291 31
17 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:40.889 3.387 20
18 36 Giedo van der Garde Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.913 3.411 20
19 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:41.036 3.534 24
20 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:41.794 4.292 20
21 46 Robin Frijns Caterham-Renault 1:42.417 4.915 35
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:42.711 5.209 21