F1: Mercedes Tops Bahrain Practice; Nico Rosberg Leads the Pack Under the Lights

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SAKHIR, Bahrain — official series release — Mercedes photo —

Championship-leading Mercedes AMG Petronas turned up the heat under the lights in Bahrain, leading the second free practice and topping the overall Friday practice charts at the Bahrain International Circuit.

After their deliberately low-key showing in FP1, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished a clear one-two, just a tenth of a second apart. However, the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were only half a second off the Silver Arrows’ pace.

Hamilton lost no time in setting the best lap on the medium-compound Pirelli tyres of 1:36.795, but Vettel was only 0.100 of a second slower. But on the soft rubber it was Rosberg who set the pace from Hamilton, with 1:34.647 to 1:34.762. Hamilton, however, had made a small mistake locking his right front tire under heavy braking for turn eight, and appeared to lose more than the 0.115 of a second that separated them.

“It was a good day today. The afternoon session wasn’t very useful as the conditions are so hot and really quite different to what we see in the evening – which is of course when qualifying and the race will be held. That makes the second session very valuable and we learned a lot – for example that Ferrari are very good on the long runs,” said Rosberg. “On qualifying laps we look quicker but on race pace they are really strong so we will have to do a lot of work tonight to find the perfect setup. Tyre wise it’s all been pretty straightforward. Both compounds are robust – it’s just their absolute pace that should be a factor. Qualifying will be important as we saw in the last few races. But I’m feeling good about my pace on one lap and the long runs too, so confidence is high.”

Kimi Raikkonen, after pacing the opening practice session, was Ferrari’s fastest runner in third with 1:35.174 to Vettel’s 1:35.277. Right at the end the German was involved in a small incident with Force India’s Sergio Perez which briefly brought out the red flag as debris was removed from the circuit.

Coming down to Turn 1, Perez dived inside Felipe Nasr’s Sauber, which was running to the left; Vettel, having exited the pits, was on the inside, and Perez, in the middle, caught the Ferrari’s left front wing endplate as he turned in. Vettel immediately reported over the radio that he had lost braking, and after an investgation the stewards determined that neither the Ferrari driver nor Perez was to blame.

The stewards are also investigating Hamilton and Raikkonen for leaving the pit lane incorrectly when the session resumed.

Valtteri Bottas took fifth for Williams as Daniel Ricciardo stayed within striking distance for Red Bull in sixth. He was chased by Pastor Maldonado’s improving Lotus in seventh, while a little further back, Nasr continued his good work for Sauber with an eighth-place showing on the timesheets.

Daniil Kvyat, who complained of loss of power on his Red Bull, and Williams’ Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten runners.

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