Felipe Massa has won the Bahrain Grand Prix on two occasions – 2007 and 2008 – and started his weekend at Sakhir in the best way possible, by setting the fastest time in free practice one, ahead of Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso and best of the rest Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.
Ferrari have in fact been victorious on the island Kingdom four times since the first race in 2004, more than any other team and Alonso famously won his first ever race as a Ferrari driver at the venue back in 2010.
On Friday, at the end of the first ninety minutes on a very green track, Massa’s best of 1:34.487 was a mere 0.077 better than Shanghai winner Alonso. The top six were separated by just over a half a second, while the top ten were covered by a second – it is still very tight at the top.
Behind Rosberg was last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel in fourth at the wheel of the Red Bull and best of the Renault powered brigade, his teammate Mark Webber was seventh.
Force India continued to impress and are clearly the in form midfield squad, with Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil fifth and eighth respectively.
McLaren will be buoyed by the early pace shown by Jenson Button in the under-performing MP4-28, but his teammate Sergio Perez could only manage the 11th best time, which half a second shy of Button’s best.
The Lotus pair, particularly Kimi Raikkonen, were down the order with the Finn ninth on the timing sheets, ahead of Romain Grosjean with the tenth best time.
Lewis Hamilton was also lower on the timing screens than expected, although Mercedes appeared to have him on long run duties. He ended the session 13th.
Heikki Kovalainen was back in the cockpit for Caterham on his first day as their ‘new’ reserve driver, and no doubt rusty since he last drove an F1 car at the Brazilian GP last November. He finished the session 20th, with teammate Charles Pic in 19th. Giedo van der Garde sat out the session.
Jules Bianchi sat out the session as Marussia gave Rodolfo Gonazalez a run in FP1. He was slowest of all.
Friday Free Practice 1 Result, Bahrain International Circuit – Friday, 19 April 2013