Bahrain GP P2: Nico Rosberg leads Mercedes 1-2 ahead of Ferraris
Rosberg a tenth clear of Hamilton, who made error on quick lap; But Ferraris again show impressive race pace; Vettel and Perez clash on track but cleared by stewards; Kimi reprimanded
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 21/04/15 11:59am
Nico Rosberg produced a timely timesheet-topping performance to finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton at the end of the opening day of action in Bahrain.
Five days on from his post-Chinese GP outburst when he accused Hamilton of slowing him down in last weekend’s fight for victory, Rosberg set the P2 pace for the second time in 2015 with the session run under floodlights to simulate the conditions of Sunday's night race.
In therefore more representative cooler temperatures of the early evening in the desert, Mercedes cast aside their low-key P1 performance to take their habitual place at the front of the field. Rosberg’s benchmark lap on the soft tyres of 1:34.647 was 0.115 seconds quicker than the sister Mercedes, although Hamilton could point to a significant amount of lost time through a big lock-up at Turn Eight on his own quickest lap.
Predictably, it was Ferrari who proved Mercedes’ closest challengers and although, on single-lap pace, the SF15-T finished half a second back on the W06, its pace on the longer runs on the soft tyre was again far more comparable - suggesting that the world champions will again have a race-day fight on their hands, even if the night race means the scorching temperatures of Malaysia won't be repeated.
"This evening was very, very valuable and important to do many laps," pacesetter Rosberg told Sky Sports F1. "So it has been good, but the pace of the Ferraris is very worrying. In qualifying we are much quicker, but in the race they are quick."
Like Hamilton, neither Ferrari driver completed error-free laps on their qualifying simulations and as in the first session, it was Raikkonen who ended up as the faster of the two red cars, by a tenth from Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel's day then ended in unusual circumstances for a practice session when he collided with Sergio Perez's Force India coming out of Sakhir's pitlane, an impact which broke his car's front wing.
Although initially appearing to hit out at the Mexican driver over the radio, Vettel said that a brake problem had meant he was unable to slow down sufficiently to avoid the contact and he had sought out Perez to apologise.
"I was braking for Turn One and wanted to let those cars go by then the car stopped decelerating, something broke mechanically on the front right I think," Vettel informed the Ferrari pitwall over the radio.
The stewards immediately announced they were looking into the clash between the two cars, but following the investigation decided to take no further action.
Following the session the stewards also looked into Raikkonen's driving he left the pitlane in the closing stages of P2. Replays showed that Raikkonen effectively jumped the queue at the end of the service road and rounded the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson as it left the Swiss team's garage.
Raikkonen received a reprimand, while Hamilton who had followed the Finn out of the pits avoided investigation.
Meanwhile, the rest of the field will be searching for answers for how they close the pace gap to the top two teams.
On single-lap pace at least, Williams, Red Bull and Lotus actually all finished the day within three tenths of Ferrari as Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Pastor Maldonado ended the session fifth through seventh respectively.
McLaren, meanwhile, built on their promise of P1 by finishing 12th with Fernando Alonso, although Jenson Button's endured a far more problematic day in the other MP4-30. With an electrical fault spinning him round within one corner of his only timed lap in P1, Button's return to the track in P2 initially lasted just three laps before the car broke down again. The 2009 Sakhir winner did, eventually, complete some more sustained running, although wound up between the Manors down in 19th.
Practice Two Timesheet
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:34.647
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:34.762
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:35.174
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:35.277
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:35.280
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:35.449
7. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1:35.
8. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:35.793
9. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:35.883
10. Felipe Massa, 1:35.884
11. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:36.148
12. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:36.191
13. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:36.334
14. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:36.471
15. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:36.805
16. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:36.917
17. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:37.062
18. Will Stevens, Manor, 1:39.131
19. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:39.209
20. Roberto Merhi, Manor, 1:40.592