2014 Bahrain Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Hamilton Throws Down The Gauntlet

Lewis Hamilton enjoyed the perfect Friday. His W05 experienced a trouble free day, and the Brit put his superior machinery to good use, by topping both the FP1 and FP2 sessions by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg twice claimed P2, yet endured some issues including a handful of major lock-ups at the infamous Turn 10. However, he was in good company, with the majority of drivers struggling to come to terms with what is often dubbed as the hardest corner on the calender. While the Mercedes seem to be clear of the field, it is set to be a fierce battle for best-of-the-rest status.

Check out Sky Sports F1’s photo gallery, depicting all of today’s action

Mercedes a Cut Above The Rest

Its what we come to expect in 2014. Mercedes were supreme today and on both long and short runs, they seem unbeatable. One glimmer of hope for the competition is the fact that Nico Rosberg suffered a minor technical glitch this morning, in which he lost boost pressure. Ultimately, it was a quick reset and he was back on his way. Even the famous Mercedes tyre wear predicaments, which severely hampered Rosberg’s charge from Pole last season, seem to be history. However, the German has somewhat of a rapport with the Sakhir International Circuit. While he is yet to win at the venue, he made his debut in the desert, recording the fastest lap on his way to P7 in the Williams. From his interviews, it is clearly a venue which he feels comfortable at.
Rosberg’s love for the layout made Lewis Hamilton’s control even more ominous. The Brit emphatically destroyed the opposition today and edged out Rosberg on two occasions, laying down a forceful marker. The Mercedes duo finished FP2 with a full second in hand over the opposition, coupled with sublime race pace, where tyre degradation seems on par with the rest of the field. It is likely that with their superior pace, Mercedes will have enough of a margin over the opposition to extend stint length as and when they feel fit. This weekend, as was always anticipated, is in their hands. It seems that only Mercedes can beat Mercedes tomorrow and on Sunday.

Red Bull Removing Downforce

Mercedes’ dominance is quite possibly a product of their great straight line speed. They are picking up magnificent traction out of the corners and are not even needing eighth gear on the straights. By this same token, Red Bull are seemingly struggling this weekend, if today’s running is representative. They spent the entirity of FP1 in midfield obscurity and while, FP2 was far more promising, the team appear to be in a fierce battle for the last podium pace – far more challenging than it has been in both Australia and Malaysia. The team are evidently feeling uncomfortable about their straight line speed, as they have removed the cascade winglets from the front wing, reducing downforce and therefore reducing drag.  
Judging by today’s running, it seems Ferrari have the edge over Red Bull, McLaren, Force India and Williams, who are all in close company. Mr.President, Luca Di Montezemolo will arrive in Bahrain tomorrow for a heavyweight meeting with FIA President, Jean Todt and F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The mechanics will be pleased that he was not in town today, as they committed a rookie mistake, sending Fernando Alonso out onto the circuit with one soft tyre and three medium compound tyres attached. Fortunately, the mistake was recognised before Alonso took to the circuit, meaning that Ferrari escaped a trip to the stewards and the inevitability of further embarrassment. Regardless, they look as through they are in a strong position this weekend – (assuming they fit the correct tyres onto the F 14T.)
Meanwhile, we are not entirely sure as to how fast Williams are. The team spent much of the day in the garage, as they did not want to put additional stress through the powertrain components, after their pre-season data supplied all that was required to mould a set-up. Hence, with tomorrow almost certainly being the first dry qualifying session of the season, it will be interesting to finally gauge just how fast the FW36 is across a short run.        

FP1 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.502
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.733 +0.231
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.953 +0.451
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.122 +0.620
5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.636 +1.134
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:38.783 +1.281
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:38.949 +1.447
8 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:39.056 +1.554
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.102 +1.600
10 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:39.389 +1.887
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:39.533 +2.031
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.862 +2.360
13 Felipe Nasr Williams 1:40.078 +2.576
14 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:40.406 +2.904
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:40.652 +3.150
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:40.793 +3.291
17 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:40.889 +3.387
18 Giedo van der Garde Sauber 1:40.913 +3.411
19 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:41.036 +3.534
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1:41.794 +4.292
21 Robin Frijns Caterham 1:42.417 +4.915
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:42.711 +5.209

FP2 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.325
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.690 +0.365
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.360 +1.035
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:35.433 +1.108
5 Felipe Massa Williams 1:35.442 +1.117
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.528 +1.203
7 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:35.606 +1.281
8 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:35.640 +1.315
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:35.662 +1.337
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.802 +1.477
11 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:35.920 +1.595
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.972 +1.647
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:35.998 +1.673
14 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.366 +2.041
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:36.962 +2.637
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:36.975 +2.650
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:37.259 +2.934
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:37.599 +3.274
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:37.800 +3.475
20 Max Chilton Marussia 1:38.247 +3.922
21 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:38.257 +3.932

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:39.136 +4.811

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