Bahrain Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Ahead of this weekend, many pundits and analysts, including myself, believed that Lotus would be the standout performers in Bahrain. Following their Friday running, few people would retract their predictions, as Lotus impressed with spectacular long run pace. Moreover, Raikkonen also displayed fantastic qualifying pace, claiming the top spot on the FP2 timesheet. It was an ominous display from a Lotus team who threaten to dominate this weekend.

FP1

Ferrari began in impressive style, completing an admirable 1-2 at the top of the timesheet in FP1. Felipe Massa marginally edged out teammate Fernando Alonso by only 0.077s. Meanwhile, Force India showed signs of pace, which will concern the likes of Mercedes and McLaren.
Proceedings got underway swiftly in Sakhir, with Heikki Kovalainen taking to the track for the first time this season, warming Giedo Van der Garde’s seat for the session. While the first half of the session was littered with the front runners completing nothing more than installation laps, they began to increase the pace in the last 45 minutes. Sebastian Vettel was the first of the front runners to set the pace, posting a benchmark time of 1:34.978. He was clearly pushing hard, exceeding the track limits at the final corner, running wide. Mark Webber was also lapping quickly, setting the second fastest time behind his rival.
Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso were next to hit the front. The Spaniard had been slowest of all after his first attempt, before an effective second attempt put him on top. However, Felipe Massa soon toppled his teammate, stealing the advantage as the last driver to post a competitive time. Evidently, his time of 1:34.487 was not going to be beaten as drivers opted to finish the session examining the long run pace. The Brazilian sealed his spot at the top of the timesheet, despite completing a modest 11 laps over the duration of the session.

FP1 Timesheet   
01 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.487 11 laps
02 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.564 +0.077 19 laps
03 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.621 +0.134 22 laps
04 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:34.790 +0.303 20 laps
05 Paul di Resta Force India 1:34.949 +0.462 17 laps
06 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.069 +0.582 22 laps
07 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:35.101 +0.614 19 laps
08 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:35.119 +0.632 19 laps
09 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:35.345 +0.858 17 laps
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:35.611 +1.124 14 laps
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:35.640 +1.153 23 laps
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:35.783 +1.296 16 laps
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.792 +1.305 16 laps
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:36.014 +1.527 19 laps
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:36.485 +1.998 20 laps
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.498 +2.011 17 laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:36.755 +2.268 20 laps
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:37.214 +2.727 21 laps
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:37.850 +3.363 20 laps
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:38.401 +3.914 20 laps
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:39.445 +4.958 12 laps
22 Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia 1:40.215 +5.728 7 laps

FP2

While FP1 was dominated by Ferrari, Lotus seized the initiative in the second session, as Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheet. Rather more poignant however, was the spectacular long run performance which will stand the team in good stead ahead of Sunday’s race. 
The majority of drivers began the session completing shorter runs on the hard compound tyre. On this compound, the Ferrari’s continued to impress, along with the Force India’s. Vettel was also posting highly competitive times, taking him to an early P4. After clocking several early laps, Sergio Perez was soon back in the garage, with the mechanics working on his splitter.
It was only a matter of time before the inevitable switch to the option compound. Webber went fastest on this tyre, and Vettel quickly made it a Red Bull 1-2 at the top of the timesheet. Alonso still continued to perform admirably, despite making the switch to the medium compound, sitting in an excellent third. However, these positions soon altered as Raikkonen jumped up from P15 to go fastest, edging out Mark Webber by 0.030s. It was an extraordinary result, considering the Finn made two key errors in the final sector. Clearly, he has time in his pocket, which is likely to be a feature of Qualifying. 
After making the switch to the medium compound, most drivers experienced a difference of around a second between the two compounds. Similarly to the first session, drivers began fueling their cars for long runs at the end of the session, meaning that the timesheet remained rather stagnant. Kimi Raikkonen will inevitably take a great deal of confidence into Saturday. Considering that he usually finds performance on Sunday, pole tomorrow could spell serious danger to his competitors. Red Bull are seemingly the only team who will be able to take the fight to Lotus tomorrow. Ferrari will rely on mistakes and they will hope to clinically punish any that are made.
FP2 Timesheet  
01 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:34.154 31 laps
02 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:34.184 +0.030s 26 laps
03 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:34.282 +0.128 29 laps
04 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.310 +0.15628 laps
05 Paul di Resta Force India 1:34.543 + 0.389 35 laps
06 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.552s +0.398 34 laps
07 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:34.631 +0.477 33 laps
08 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.666 +0.512 37 laps
09 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:34.932 +0.778 33 laps
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.976 +0.822 29 laps
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.356 +1.202 32 laps
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.506 +1.352 36 laps
13 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:35.559 +1.435 36 laps
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:35.761 +1.607 33 laps
15 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:36.133 +1.979 36 laps
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.279 +2.125 33 laps
17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.579 +2.425 28 laps
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:36.616 +2.462 34 laps
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:37.061 +2.907 32 laps
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1:37.313 +3.159 33 laps
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.363s +3.209 29 laps
22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:37.970 +3.816 34 laps  
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