Bahrain GP - Tough times in the desert sands
Sakhir, 20 April – As expected, given that the F2012 used by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are, in broad outline, the same here as they were a few days ago in Shanghai, there were no miracles in terms of performance for the Scuderia Ferrari duo. Fernando Alonso ended the day with the eighth fastest time having completed a total over the three hours of 52 laps, just five short of Sunday’s race distance. Felipe Massa was twelfth and did three laps less than his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate. It’s not just that five days is not exactly enough time to come up with some performance enhancements, but on top of that, the Sakhir track, which in the past has proved a happy hunting ground for Prancing Horse drivers, puts demands on two qualities in which the F2012 is lacking, namely traction and top speed.
Working here is tough: the heat is exhausting for the mechanics in the garage, while the engineers face the headache of having to come up with a car set-up on a track where today’s conditions, level of grip and so forth, are very different to those the drivers will encounter in Sunday’s fourth round of the World Championship. Tyre wear is significant and managing the Medium and Soft Pirellis, especially those fitted to the rear of the cars, will be one of the most important factors. A car that gets the most out of them will deliver a fast lap time in tomorrow’s qualifying and one that is also kind on them will open up greater strategic choices for the race, thanks to the ability to run longer stints.
A few days ago, his name topped the time sheet at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix and today, Nico Rosberg did the same, going quickest in his Mercedes in the second of today’s 90 minute free practice sessions. The Mercedes man was the only driver to break the 1m 33s barrier. Second and third were the two Red Bulls, with Mark Webber ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Next was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, with Michael Schumacher fifth in the Mercedes and Jenson Button completing the top six for McLaren.