Felipe Massa has ended the opening practice session fastest for Ferrari in preparation for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in what was a Scuderia 1-2 at the top. Nico Rosberg finished 3rd fastest behind the Ferrari duo for Mercedes, only a tenth behind the pairing.
Amid continued controversy pertaining to the sport’s involvement in the Kingdom, the opening practice session for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix began in hot conditions around the dusty Bahrain International Circuit. Two driver changes occurred for the opening practice session, as Heikki Kovalainen made a return to the sport with Caterham replacing Giedo van der Garde and former GP2 Series driver Rodolfo Gonzalez replacing Jules Bianchi at Marussia.
Rookie Esteban Gutierrez became the first driver to take to the track for Sauber as the 90-minute session got underway, and was quickly followed out by the likes of Max Chilton and Jenson Button. Naturally the majority of the field elected to carry out installation laps early on, with Nico Hulkenberg eventually setting the first timed lap of the session with a 01:42.500 for the Swiss outfit. The German driver was able to improve upon his time at the top with a 01:40.521, before his team-mate of Esteban Gutierrez momentarily rose to the top. However, Sauber’s reign over proceedings was quickly shattered as Kimi Raikkonen obliterated the timing screens with a 01:35.533.
The Finn, who nearly took victory at Bahrain last season, quickly improved upon his time at the top as more drivers began to take to the Bahrain International Circuit as the session wore on. Jenson Button rose to the top for McLaren, before the Force India of Adrian Sutil continued to impress on his return to the sport with a 01:35.119 which saw him storm to the top of the timing sheets for the Silverstone-based outfit. However, reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel soon asserted his authority over proceedings with a 01:34.978, confirming reports that Red Bull could well be the team to beat once again this weekend.
As the opening practice session wore on, Nico Rosberg rose to the top for Mercedes as the majority of the field continued their preparations for the remainder of the weekend. Fernando Alonso soon powered Ferrari to the sharp-end of the timing sheets with a 01:34.564, before Felipe Massa impressed many with a competitive 01:34.487 to dispose of his team-mate and shoot to the top. In the dying minutes of the session, many drivers including the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez ran exceedingly wide as they pushed to the limits around the Bahrain International Circuit.
Rodolfo Gonzalez’s first official practice session was brought to a premature conclusion with only several minutes remaining in the session, with the Venezuelan’s Marussia machine struck with a gearbox issue. The car was therefore stripped down by the mechanics as they strove to fix the issue, with the same car expected to power Jules Bianchi later in the day during the second practice session. Despite his wealth of knowledge within Formula 1, Charles Pic managed to finish ahead of Heikki Kovalainen at Caterham.
Felipe Massa’s time at the top remained unbeaten as the opening session drew to a conclusion, with Fernando Alonso making it a Scuderia 1-2 at the top ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. With many mistakes made during the closing stages of the session, the drivers will undoubtedly be eager to return to the Bahrain International Circuit later in the day for the second practice session as preparations continue for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m34.487s 11 2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m34.564s + 0.077s 19 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m34.621s + 0.134s 22 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m34.790s + 0.303s 20 5. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m34.949s + 0.462s 17 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.069s + 0.582s 22 7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m35.101s + 0.614s 19 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m35.119s + 0.632s 19 9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m35.345s + 0.858s 17 10. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m35.611s + 1.124s 14 11. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.640s + 1.153s 23 12. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m35.783s + 1.296s 16 13. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m35.792s + 1.305s 16 14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.014s + 1.527s 19 15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m36.485s + 1.998s 20 16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m36.498s + 2.011s 17 17. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.755s + 2.268s 20 18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m37.214s + 2.727s 21 19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m37.850s + 3.363s 20 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m38.401s + 3.914s 20 21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m39.445s + 4.958s 12 22. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.215s + 5.728s 7
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