Bahrain GP Practice 2: Rosberg reveals Mercedes pace?

Nico Rosberg climbed to the top of the times in the second free practice session in Bahrain. The German led a Mercedes-powered lock out of the top of the times, with team-mate Michael Schumacher in 3rd and the McLaren’s of Hamilton and Button in 2nd and 4th respectively.

Rosberg went straight to the top of the times after only twenty minutes with a blistering lap to eclipse his rivals. The 24-year-old further displayed his speed just fifteen minutes later, shaving a tenth of a second off his previous effort.

Overall the German was happy with his day’s work:

“We improved the car over the course of the day but it didn’t feel great initially with the new track, lower downforce and the conditions were very sandy this morning. So we had a few balance issues to work on but it came together very well this afternoon.” he said,

“There are areas where we can still improve but we have a good comparison with the tyre compounds and on the long runs. Overall we learnt a great deal today so it’s a positive start to the weekend.”

From that point onwards, Rosberg’s time went unchallenged as the majority of teams began to work on race set-up and run with heavily fueled cars. This certainly appeared the case for the Ferrari drivers, with Massa and Alonso in the bottom half of the top ten.

However, the session did not pass without drama – with Lewis Hamilton suffering an extreme case of tyre degradation while on the harder compound. This will come as a worry for the 2008 world champion ahead of Sunday’s race, with the Brit experiencing this issue after only a handful of laps.

Michael Schumacher also looked ragged on his return to the sport, running wide on a number of cases when trying to correct the problems that he suffered in the first session.

“We worked very well this afternoon after having a few issues with the balance this morning.” said the seven-times champion, “The car felt much better in the second session although I am still a little rusty on one lap runs and need to get back into the routine.”

“On the long runs, the car felt good and once you get into the rhythm, it feels very natural. I’m happy with our work today and feeling ready for the weekend.”

The Red Bull drivers also experienced difficulty with Sebastian Vettel having two excursions off at the last corner of the lap, on his way to fifth.

“I would have liked more track time, but it’s not Christmas and we’re not given things for free.” Vettel told Red Bull’s website after the session. “We have a lot of work to do, but we know where we need to improve, so we will work on that.”

Unfortunately the bad luck which has plagued Mark Webber’s career returned in the second session, with the Australian sidelined, due to a driveshaft issue. However, the 33-year-old remains fired up, stating:

“We’ll have to re-group, get what we can out of today and then focus on tomorrow. You can already see it’s going to be bloody competitive this year – it’s going to be a good fight out there.”

It wasn’t plain sailing at Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso either, with Sebastien Buemi only completing one lap before being sidelined by a problem at the rear of the car. Jaime Alguersuari’s afternoon was also full of errors, with the young Spaniard narrowly missing contact with the crash barrier, after a spin on the new section of the track.

First practice pace setter Adrian Sutil could not match reach the top ten and had to settle for twelfth. Meanwhile, Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest driver of all of the new teams in eighteenth.

However, HRT continued to struggle in practice two with Karun Chandhok being forced to once again not participate in practice. The Indian will have to set a laptime in tomorrow’s third practice session or he will not be allowed to compete in the race. Although Bruno Senna completed seventeen laps, he was still forced to park his Cosworth-powered machine at the end of the session, after a wheel nut came loose.

Pos  Driver         Team                 Time              Laps
1.   Rosberg        Mercedes             1:55.409            23
2.   Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes     1:55.854  + 0.445   22
3.   Schumacher     Mercedes             1:55.903  + 0.494   23
4.   Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1:56.076  + 0.667   28
5.   Vettel         Red Bull-Renault     1:56.459  + 1.050   18
6.   Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth    1:56.501  + 1.092   26
7.   Massa          Ferrari              1:56.555  + 1.146   30
8.   Petrov         Renault              1:56.750  + 1.341   26
9.   Alonso         Ferrari              1:57.140  + 1.731   25
10.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari       1:57.255  + 1.846   24
11.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari       1:57.352  + 1.943   27
12.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1:57.361  + 1.952   29
13.  Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1:57.452  + 2.043   21
14.  Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes 1:57.833  + 2.424   29
15.  Kubica         Renault              1:58.155  + 2.746   29
16.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1:59.799  + 4.390   31
17.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault     2:00.444  + 5.035   12
18.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth       2:00.873  + 5.464   23
19.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth       2:00.990  + 5.581   14
20.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth      2:02.037  + 6.628    3
21.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth      2:02.188  + 6.779   21
22.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth         2:06.968  + 11.559  17
23.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari                        1
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth

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