Rosberg fastest as Force India abandons practice
20 April 2012 – Fresh from his win in Shanghai, Nico Rosberg topped the timesheets from the two Red Bull drivers in second free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. With Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher completing the top five, Force India decided to miss the session in order to return to their hotel before nightfall.
Safety has long since been a priority in Formula 1, but it was off-track welfare more than on-track interests which concerned most at Sakhir on Friday; this followed an incident on Wednesday in which four Force India mechanics were fortunate to escape injury when a petrol bomb exploded close to their van during a protest on a motorway. With more conflict expected on the route back to Manama tonight, the team elected to pack up early and leave the circuit before the sun went down at 6pm.
Once again, the session featured few incidents as crowd numbers remained just as scarce. Mark Webber led the way for Red Bull after 15 minutes, but was later demoted to second by former Williams team-mate Rosberg, whose Grand Prix debut came in Bahrain six years ago. The Mercedes man led the way with his best effort of 1:32.816, edging out the Australian by over four tenths of a second as Sebastian Vettel – using the newer Red Bull exhaust once again – sealed a top three position.
Hamilton, who set the pace this morning, finished fourth as many at the track struggled to gain a genuine impression as to who the real pace-setters are; however, by virtue of the hotter weather this weekend, McLaren are still widely viewed as favourites. Jenson Button’s day ended in sixth place as the McLarens sandwiched Schumacher on the timesheets; however, in the closing stages of the 90-minute period, the seven-time Champion came close to contact with Vettel at Turn 10.
On a weekend already tipped to be one of great difficult by Fernando Alonso, he and Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa finished up in eighth and 12th slots, separated by half and second, with the Spaniard’s best being 1.6 seconds off the leading lap time.
As per usual, the drivers’ best times of Practice 2 came on the Soft compound tyres. Force India, knowing it would skip the second session, briefly ran the Softs in the opening phase. Exactly how much they have sacrificed by skipping a session remains to be seen; the time loss could be limited, as fluctuating track temperatures and a changing wind direction threw challenges into the mix for all as car setups were fine-tuned.
Third and final practice at Sakhir begins at 11am local time (BST +2) on Saturday and can also be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report