Rosberg still quickest as Vettel threatens
21 April 2012 – Nico Rosberg has remained fastest in final practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Following an overheating problem with his Red Bull, World Champion Sebastian Vettel moved to within two tenths of a second of his compatriot as Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher completed the top five.
After Friday night, when many in the F1 paddock left the circuit early to return to Manama before nightfall, all present this morning were pleased to hear of no incidents; on Wednesday and Thursday, Force India and Sauber mechanics had been caught up in demonstrations taking place on motorways. For McLaren, Friday had been a later finish than for most as they worked on improving rear tyre life at the dusty and sandy track.
Once again, today brought a chiefly uneventful session in terms of incident, with several cars running wide but no need for yellow flags as Sakhir sports huge run-off areas. There was a haze over the circuit, although Pastor Maldonado was more concerned about the gearbox change which leaves him with a five-place grid penalty heading into qualifying. Unfortunately, local events in Bahrain resulted in near-empty grandstands around most of the venue.
Jean-Éric Vergne was again first on-track for Toro Rosso, although it was sister team Red Bull making the running as Vettel came back out after his issue and immediately demonstrated front-running pace; it remains to be seen whether Mercedes are sandbagging slightly or are genuinely under attack from the World Champions. The current quickest three teams locked out the top six places, with Jenson Button sixth.
After the team elected to skip yesterday’s entire second session, Force India set the most laps as Paul di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg strived to make up lost ground. At Ferrari, there are question marks over the possibility of facing the top ten shootout this afternoon, as Fernando Alonso narrowly sealed tenth position while team-mate Felipe Massa struggled en route to 16th spot. The field was again completed by HRT.
Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying will be underway at 2pm local time (BST +2) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report