20 april 20120
414.14: that’s the number of kilometres that Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne completed between them during today’s three hours of free practice at the Sakhir circuit.
That was down to the two STR7s running reliably throughout, which was handy, as the engineers had produced an extensive menu when it came to the job sheet. As we explained last week, updates brought to China produced more questions than answers and so everyone at the track and back home in Faenza has been working flat out to resolve these issues. It resulted in Dan and Jev running different car configurations in the morning, after which the data pointed the finger of approval at the Australian’s car, so the Frenchman switched for the afternoon. They ended the day in 11th and 14th places respectively.
Getting the car balanced and quick are not the only challenges here in Bahrain, as the sand covered track takes quite a while to clean up and get rubbered in, making it hard to assess the tyres. With the Medium and Soft Pirelli compounds being used here, clearly the very hot conditions take their toll and, on their first ever visit to the desert track, both our boys realised very quickly that tyre management will be the key to the weekend, both in tomorrow’s qualifying, when there really is a need to nail a good time on the first flying lap and in Sunday’s race when treating the rubber with kindness will pay dividends in terms of stint length. For the mechanics, the workload is compounded by having to work in the very high temperatures, a factor exacerbated by the heat that pours off the race cars and the tyres in their blankets. An F1 garage is definitely not an oasis in the desert.
They say winning your first Grand Prix is a great confidence booster and even if it’s just a coincidence, China GP winner Nico Rosberg topped this afternoon’s time sheet for Mercedes, ahead of the Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in that order. Fourth was Lewis Hamilton for McLaren, followed by Michael Schumacher in the other Mercedes and Jenson Button in the second McLaren.
What does tomorrow hold? For Scuderia Toro Rosso, hopefully more progress with the car in the morning, followed by a better turn of speed in the afternoon’s qualifying session. Fingers crossed.
The first free practice session for the fourth round of the world championship took place this morning at the Sakhir circuit outside Manama.
Our two drivers started the Bahrain Grand Prix with their STR7s pretty much in the same configuration they used on Sunday in Shanghai. That means Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo had quite different set-ups to one another this morning, albeit fine tuned in an effort to improve on the way the cars ran in China. Both of them completed 20 laps on what was a very dirty track surface, with the Frenchman being 17th fastest and the Australian 20th.
Lewis Hamilton was fastest for McLaren, followed by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and Paul di Resta in the Force India. Shanghai winner Nico Rosberg was fourth for Mercedes, followed by Jenson Button in the other McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg in the other Force India.