With his Mercedes sparkling bright under nearly 5,000 spanking new floodlights, Lewis Hamilton’s hot streak carried over from the first Free Practice earlier in the day to the night time Second Practise of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, with Nico Rosberg again second best as the Silver Arrows appeared to have a clear edge over their rivals, at the end of day one at Sakhir.
With a good car at his disposal Hamilton is fired up, and relishing the role of pace setter. There is a spring in his step and glint in his eye with a single minded focus on the business at hand, a state of mind which, according to Niki Lauda, makes the Briton virtually unbeatable.
Hamilton’s best lap of 1:34.325 was 0.365 of a second up on Rosberg’s best and over a second better than best-of-the-rest Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. The next ten drivers were within within a second of the Spaniard’s top time, indicating just how completely Mercedes are currently in another league.
Ominously for everyone else, the single hot lap pace of the W05 is right up there and the race simulation they ran on the day also set the benchmark. Indications, after day one in the desert, are that Bahrain is Merc’s for the taking, or alternatively their’s to lose.
After a somewhat subdued FP1 session Red Bull came to the party with Daniel Ricciardo setting the fourth fastest time and teammate Sebastian Vettel seventh quickest. Team boss Christian Horner claims another fuel flow sensor failed, a malady which thus far has only afflicted the Renault brigade.
Best of the Mercedes customer posse was Felipe Massa in the Williams with the fifth best time, ahead of the McLaren of Jenson Button who ended the 90 minute session in sixth.
Rookie Daniil Kvyat got his weekend off to an impressive start in Bahrain with the eighth best time, faster in both sessions on the day than more experienced Toro Rosso teammate Jean Eric Vergne, who was 12th.
Another rookie, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, rounded out the top ten a mere 0.134 of a second down on teammate Button’s best.
Notably out of the top ten was Kimi Raikkonen who continued to struggle, relative to his Ferrari teammate, and ended the day down in 14th. The Finn battled with the nuances of the finicky F14T, which seemingly is unkind to his driving style.
Frustrations continued for the Lotus lads who again clocked up some relatively good mileage in the E22, but both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean are woefully off the pace – they ended up 17th and 18 respectively – around three seconds off Hamilton’s best.
At the sharp end, race pace simulations suggest that Mercedes have the edge but that there is very little to separate Force India, Red Bull and Williams, as well as the Ferrari of Alonso.
Subbed by AJN.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 2 – Friday, 4 April 2014