Red Bull and Ferrari topped the times in both of the practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo was three tenths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in the first practice, while in second practice Kimi Raikkonen was narrowly faster than his teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Top Three looks close
Ferrari has started this weekend off well they topped the second session by half a second over the Mercedes. We expected that that gap would have been closer, but Valtteri Bottas further off the pace. These top teams don’t as always show there full hand on Friday, especially Mercedes.
FP1 as we have been saying all weekend isn’t the best session for the teams as it takes place in the mid-afternoon when temperatures are higher than when the race takes place in the evening. This weekend teams need to perform in the evening.
However, it appears that Mercedes was further off the pace than you would expect. But I would have expected them to be closer, however, team boss Toto Wolff says he believes that Mercedes are not far behind based on the GPS data.
Wolff told Motorsport.com “You can see that when you overlay the data, suddenly on the straights they gain much more time, and in the corners, it’s still the same.”
“You can see that in detail, so it’s become very transparent for the engineers how much somebody has turned up the power, and how much downforce, and how much drag everyone is running.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel echoed the comments of Wolff, saying “It is difficult to say where we are just from one day of practice. But we did make some progress. In the long runs we can do better, so let’s see what happens tomorrow. We made some mistakes here and there, but we tried to get the rhythm for qualifying.”
Red Bull hits good running
Red Bull have hit the ground running well as Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in FP1, in FP2 the team were struggling to show their full potential as we think that the team were masking performance. We believe that all teams will be doing that this season with the new restrictions on power units.
However we didn’t see Max Verstappen’s full potential in FP1, that was because of his electrical failure. Red Bull are able based on today to be up there with Mercedes and Ferrari again this weekend. But when we get into qualifying the question is how close can they be on track when the engines are turned up on Saturday.
Verstappen said “It was not ideal to miss so much track time, it meant that I spent the beginning of the second session searching for the balance of the car which took a while. For such a short time in the car I managed to find quite a good balance and the long run pace looked pretty positive.
“I was also happy with how the tyre degradation looked at the end of that session. Come race day it will depend a lot on strategy, you can follow at this track better than others so with the right planning and a bit of luck you can get a good result.”
Midfield very close
Bahrain has followed the pattern we had in Melbourne, the top three close then a bit of a gap then the midfield being close. Nico Hulkenberg led the group in FP2 and Romain Grosjean in FP1. They are as close again as we saw in Melbourne,
Hulkenberg was ahead off the group in FP2, but Pierre Gasly was the car behind as they looked strong. Gasly had struggled in FP1 with his car being an “absolute mess” but he was seventh fastest, I think again Toro Rosso can be pleased with their performance and again it underlines the progress that Honda have made.
I think that if this continues that Williams and Force India may have a few headaches as they have traditionally been the bench mark for the midfield group.
Williams did lose some competitiveness in FP2 they said but Lance Stroll say that the ar is better than where they expected the car to be. He said “hopefully we can get on top of things and come back better tomorrow. I think we can improve in many areas, so there is a lot that can be better.”
“I think I could make my lap a tenth or two better than where it is, but still that is not enough as we need to be looking for big gains and not just minor details.”
Force India appears as if the team has taken a step backwards compared to last year. The team were outside the top ten in both FP1 and FP2, however it appears that the teams focus was on aero development in both sessions.
The team were evaluating the new front wing, but there wasn’t anything that they did which wasn’t unusual for practice. I expect the team may have more to give when we get into qualifying tomorrow evening, however, I believe they are behind Haas.
Sergio Perez said “The first session was very busy with lots of aero work. It’s given us lots of information to help us understand which parts are giving the best performance. Our long run pace is still stronger than our qualifying speed and I think we can come away with some points this weekend.”
Tomorrow’s Qualifying I believe will be a battle between the Ferraris and Red Bull, with Mercedes being on the back foot slightly. But we know Mercedes they will have more to give when they turn up the car, and they have taken the last five poles here and engine modes are good. That means that I believe Mercedes will be in the fight.
I think that we all know that Mercedes know that they can’t be overconfident with there performance on track. That midfield group again will be tight, so expect some surprises!
- BAHRAIN GP – Raikkonen sets the pace as Ferrari hold a half second advantage in second practice
- BAHRAIN GP – Ricciardo fastest in first practice by three tenths over Bottas
- TFTV – Bahrain
- Data Profile – Bahrain Grand Prix
- Prixview – Bahrain Grand Prix