Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg followed his victory in China by setting the fastest lap in Friday practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
In difficult, changeable conditions at Sakhir, Mercedes managed 106 laps as, like its rivals, it sought to develop tyre data for a circuit and surface that has very different characteristics to the ones experienced last week in China. Rosberg set fastest lap in the afternoon with a time of 1:32.816, nearly half a second ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
“That was a good start to the weekend, and while it’s nice to be quickest today, we know that doesn’t count,” said Rosberg. “The most important thing still is to improve our race pace. For the moment, it looks reasonable but we need to analyse where we are on high fuel levels compared to our competitors and draw our conclusions. The conditions are really tough out there, so the race will be quite demanding from the tyre perspective.”
“The tyres go away very quickly,” added team-mate Michael Schumacher. “You really have to stay within the limit of them, that's going to be the main issue. Let's see what we can make out of it but the start of the weekend has definitely not been too bad for us.” While the blustery conditions and the evolving level of grip made it difficult for teams to gather relevant data, Mercedes-powered cars were able to dominate the order with six out of the top seven in the morning practice and, with Force India not running in the afternoon, four from the top six in FP2. In both cases the only non-Mercedes were Red Bull Racing-Renaults. No one, however, was willing to put too much faith in Friday times on a surface that is clearly changing quickly.
“I think it’s quite difficult to judge,” conceded head of Mercedes motorsport Norbert Haug. “I would not really read too much into the quickest time on Friday, we saw that before. I think people run different programs but I think we are heading in the right direction. We learned quite a lot. The challenge is how to use the tyres, how to set up your car and then do the necessary amount of laps for the race and decide on how many stops you will do. You get the first impression of that on Friday. Currently, I really cannot judge where we are. We should not read into the fact that we are first today that we are the big favourites for tomorrow and Sunday.”