Sebastian Vettel topped the leader board in the final practice session ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, with a time of 1:31.683, to make it a Ferrari one-two, with a four tenths gap to the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.
Situated in the Sakhir desert, not far from the island’s capital of Manama, the Bahrain Grand Prix is where we head for
the second round of the 2016 F1 season. Contended under the floodlights, the Bahrain Grand Prix is now the first of two night races on the F1 calendar, and with its long straights and slow corners it has become one of the most entertaining races of the year. Grip levels can be particularly low during the weekend as the track gets very little use across the year, and that coupled with the desert sand weeping across the circuit, can make it slippery for the divers early on. The temperature is also a factor here in Bahrain, as although it is one of the hotter destinations visited, heat levels can drop dramatically during the race, causing further challenges for the drivers in Sakhir.
The three tyre compounds nominated by Pirelli this weekend are the white walled medium, the yellow walled soft and the red walled super soft compounds. Under the new rules in 2016, Pirelli allocate three sets of tyres to each driver, however the remaining ten sets are chosen by each individual pilot. This worked well in Round 1, bringing about varying strategies from the teams, and hopefully we will be afforded the same sort of intrigue on the tyre front here in Bahrain this weekend.
Kevin Magnussen got his weekend off to a bad start, he will start the race from the pitlane after receiving a penalty for failing to stop at a red light for a weight check during FP2. Williams will run a new nose and front wing during FP3, but the new parts will only be on the car of Felipe Massa as the team only had time to prepare one of the cars.
It was a hot start to the final practice session of the weekend as the sun blazed in the sky, much more like the temperatures expected here in Bahrain, compared to the cooler temperatures seen on Friday. As the lights went green to signal the start of proceedings, Esteban Gutierrez was the first driver out on track, closely followed by Pascal Wehrlein, Romain Grosjean and Felipe Nasr, as everyone rolled out to complete their installation laps, all on the soft
Button reported over team radio that the engine sounded a but different compared to usual when he was off throttle, before returning to the pits to have that investigated….hopefully not a problem for the Brit after a strong FP2 yesterday.
With the majority of drivers back in the pits, only Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo were out on circuit with ten minutes of the session gone. The Australian set the first lap time of the day, laying down a 1:34.726 as the initial benchmark, before Sergio Perez bettered that to go P1 with a time of 1:23.281, four tenths quicker than the Red Bull. Nico Hulkenberg followed his teammates lead and slotted his Force India into P2, just three hundredths shy of the Mexican.
With twenty minutes of the session gone, the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton joined the action on track, Rosberg hitting the front first to lodge a time of 1:33:150, whilst teammate Hamilton matched the German to the second, but was classified in P2 as he set the time after Rosberg. The Brit made a small error on his lap, which perhaps lost him a tenth or two. Meanwhile Max Verstappen reported over team radio that he had a problem with the engine. The team advised the Dutchman to stay out, but he responded advising that he was seriously draining the battery.
Twenty five minutes gone and Bottas and Kevin Magnussen had switched onto the super soft tyre. The Finn took the top spot with a time of 1:33.042, but he was soon knocked off the top by fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen, on the soft tyre, who posted a time of 1:32.863, two tenths up on the Williams. Magnussen meanwhile could only go P7 on his super soft run, whilst Ricciardo also now on the softest compound moved up a spot to P6, whilst Massa slotted into P5.
At the midway point of the session it was Raikkonen leading, from Bottas in P2, Rosberg P3, Hamilton P4, Massa P5, Ricciardo P6, Perez P7, Hulkenberg P8, Daniil Kvyat P9 and Jolyon Palmer completed the top ten. The two McLaren’s were yet to set a time, along with the Haas of Gutierrez.
Shortly after, the Mexican driver did then head out onto track, but immediately reported over team radio that he had some traffic from Hamilton, which Gutierrez advised also happened yesterday. Clearly not happy, the Haas man then ran wide over the kerbs in frustration of losing time on that lap.
Button also headed out onto track for the first time since his installation lap, but circulated on the medium tyre, whilst Stoffel Vandoorne was still in the pits following an oil spill, but with the floor being put back on his MP4-31, the Dutchman would be heading back out shortly. Meanwhile, there was more trouble for Toro Rosso, as Carlos Sainz this time reported that he had some sort of puncture, and returned to the pits for it to be investigated.
With twenty minutes to go we were yet to see any sort of qualifying simulation from the drivers, with many of them back in the pits preparing for that very thing. Mechanics in the Mercedes garage had their flashlights out and
were shining them at the nose of Hamilton’s car but there did not seem to be any specific issue to report.
Vandoorne also made it out onto track on the medium tyres, to try and set some sort of lap time today, slotting in just behind his teammate in P18.
With fifteen minutes to go, Rosberg, Hamilton and Massa all headed out on a fresh set of super soft tyres. The Brazilian
was unable to improve on his current lap time on his initial run, but Rosberg meanwhile moved straight to the top of the board with a time of 1:32.104, whilst Hamilton slotted into P2, despite going fastest in the first and second sectors,
five hundredths off the pace of the German. Things were looking close in the silver arrows garage.
Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Kvyat all headed out for their simulation runs with the Finn heading to the top of the board with an impressive time of 1:31.723, to take P1 off the Mercs. As everyone headed out onto track, and the temperatures rose, the times and positions were changing left, right and centre. Sebastian Vettel was next to take the top spot, his time of 1:31.683 beating his teammate by just four hundredths of a second.
Gutierrez briefly jumped up to P5 in the Haas, splitting the two William’s drivers before teammate Grosjean demoted the Mexican to P6, the American team looking pretty strong. As the action hotted up, Button strapped on the super soft tyres but could only do enough to go P13, with teammate Vandoorne four hundredths down in P14. Jolyon Palmer meanwhile ended his session with a puncture on the left rear of the Renault, and finished the session in P20.
As the chequered flag fell it was Vettel that took P1 with a time of 1:31.683, from Raikkonen in P2 with a time of 1:31.723, Rosberg in P3 with a time of 1:32.104, Hamilton in P4 with a 1:32.160 and Bottas P5 with a time of 1:32.675. Grosjean, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Massa and Ricciardo completed the top ten.
A surprising end to the FP3 session with the two Ferrari’s heading the table, half a second clear of the Mercedes. Whether the times were a true representation is yet to be seen, but it should make for an interesting qualifying session later today
FP3 – Bahrain Grand Prix
|1||5||Sebastian Vettel VET||Ferrari||1:31.683||22|
|2||7||Kimi Räikkönen RAI||Ferrari||1:31.723||+0.040s||13|
|3||6||Nico Rosberg ROS||Mercedes||1:32.104||+0.421s||18|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton HAM||Mercedes||1:32.160||+0.477s||14|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas BOT||Williams||1:32.675||+0.992s||18|
|6||8||Romain Grosjean GRO||Haas||1:33.082||+1.399s||14|
|7||26||Daniil Kvyat KVY||Red Bull Racing||1:33.113||+1.430s||10|
|8||21||Esteban Gutierrez GUT||Haas||1:33.337||+1.654s||14|
|9||19||Felipe Massa MAS||Williams||1:33.363||+1.680s||18|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo RIC||Red Bull Racing||1:33.519||+1.836s||20|
|11||9||Marcus Ericsson ERI||Sauber||1:33.569||+1.886s||16|
|12||20||Kevin Magnussen MAG||Renault||1:33.617||+1.934s||9|
|13||22||Jenson Button BUT||McLaren||1:33.704||+2.021s||12|
|14||47||Stoffel Vandoorne VAN||McLaren||1:33.744||+2.061s||11|
|15||33||Max Verstappen VES||Toro Rosso||1:33.778||+2.095s||20|
|16||55||Carlos Sainz SAI||Toro Rosso||1:34.003||+2.320s||20|
|17||12||Felipe Nasr NAS||Sauber||1:34.013||+2.330s||15|
|18||27||Nico Hulkenberg HUL||Force India||1:34.128||+2.445s||16|
|19||11||Sergio Perez PER||Force India||1:34.281||+2.598s||15|
|20||30||Jolyon Palmer PAL||Renault||1:34.424||+2.741s||9|
|21||88||Rio Haryanto HAR||Manor||1:35.546||+3.863s||15|
|22||94||Pascal Wehrlein WEH||Manor||1:35.724||+4.041s|
Photo Credit: @ScuderiaFerrari