Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari one-two in practice for the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, but a loose wheel-nut caused the 2007 champion to end his afternoon prematurely.
Sebastian Vettel may have taken the opening victory of the season in Australia, but for the majority of the weekend, it was Raikkonen who had been leading the way for the Scuderia. It’s early yet, but the Bahrain Grand Prix appears to be going the same way.
Right until the final 10 minutes of the second session, things had gone without issue for Ferrari. In what was a topical twist, given the problems partner team Haas suffered in Australia, Ferrari endured a similar wheel gun problem while completing a practice pit stop.
Mercedes captured the pole with Valtteri Bottas last year, and he opened this weekend in third just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes either didn’t show its true pace on Friday or had no answer for Ferrari’s one-lap pace. Perhaps a concern for the defending champions is that Mercedes was over a half second behind the Scuderia.
“They (Ferrari) were in a pretty high power mode when they did their lap, so it isn’t so worrying, but it is a good lap and what we saw in Melbourne and again here is that, at various stages, teams are very close together so I can’t really judge (where our pace is),” said Mercedes principal Toto Wolff.
Explaining how he can be certain that Ferrari was running in a high engine mode, Wolff pointed to the raw data.
“It’s quite amazing because we have GPS data so you can follow the traces of every car and you can see that, when you overlay the data, suddenly down the straights they gain much more time and in the corners, it’s still the same,” Wolff said.
Probably the happiest team at the end of the day will be Red Bull.
Daniel Ricciardo had topped the standings in FP1 but their one-lap pace in FP2 saw Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and sixth. However, the pace shown on long runs was almost a second clear of Mercedes – just shy of half a second better than Ferrari.
Nico Hulkenberg may not have been pleased with the feel of his Renault, but seventh place will at least give the German something to smile about. The same could be said for Pierre Gasly – managing to go eighth, just ahead of the two McLarens for Toro Rosso-Honda.