Mercedes use practice to plan


Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg found themselves in unusual positions towards the rear of the timesheet at the end of the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

But there was no alarm as Mercedes focused on a particular plan, with the 90-minute session at the Bahrain International Circuit hardly representative of what all the drivers will face in qualifying and the race.

At the start of FP1, and with the track exceptionally dusty – a situation which will naturally improve over the weekend with use – the circuit and air temperatures were a searing 52 and 36 degrees centigrade respectively.

With qualifying and the race due to start late evening at 6pm local time, such temperatures will drop considerably.

It meant Mercedes focused on laps rather than outright pace, with Rosberg chalking up 23 and Hamilton 22 – but with their times far behind the lead car, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

The Finn set the pace with a lap of one minute 37.827secs, two tenths of a second up on team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the German who trails reigning champion Hamilton by 13 points after the first three races of the campaign.

Vettel only managed 12 laps, primarily due to a loss of power with his car relatively early in the session, but with enough time in hand to ensure he returned to the circuit.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas followed the Ferrari pair, a little more than half a second off the pace.

The Finn was followed by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen in fourth and sixth, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo splitting the young pair.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was an encouraging seventh, finishing 0.771secs down, but for the team there were further woes as Jenson Button saw his session come to an end after just three minutes.

Both McLarens saw the chequered flag in China on Sunday, with the team hailing that a breakthrough after their issues with new power-unit supplier Honda so far this season.

But at the start of his first timed lap on the approach to turn one, Button spun as the engine cut out mid-corner.

The 35-year-old had no choice but to abandon and take the short walk back to the garage whilst marshals rolled his car down a side road exit.

Although the car returned to the pits, Button’s mechanics were unable to correct the fault and get the veteran back out on track.

Two more rookies, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat were eighth and ninth on the board, eight tenths of a second back, with Felipe Massa 10th for Williams, just under a second down.

Given another outing by Lotus, reserve driver Jolyon Palmer was 14th – ahead of Rosberg in 15th and Hamilton 16th.

The Briton again put in another credible performance alongside more experienced team-mate Pastor Maldonado, finishing a little more than four tenths of a second behind the Venezuelan.

At the rear, ahead of Button who naturally failed to set a time, were Manor’s Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi. The former was five seconds back, but more importantly 1.3secs ahead of his team-mate.

Published: Friday 17th April 2015 by The News Editor

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