• Bahrain Grand Prix Free Practice 2

Rosberg sets early benchmark in Bahrain

ESPNF1 Staff
March 12, 2010 « Campos admits he almost gave up | »

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Nico Rosberg set the fastest time overall during Friday practice for the opening race of the season in Bahrain.

He clocked a best time of 1:55.409 but most of his competitors were focussing on longer runs with heavy fuel loads in preparation for Sunday's race. Hamilton was second fastest ahead of Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa shunned low-fuel running in the second session and turned their attention to tyre wear over long stints, using both soft and hard compounds.

The wear rate of the Bridgestone rubber will be one of the main talking points, as many drivers complained of rear tyre degradation towards the end of long runs. Hamilton said he destroyed a set of the hard compounds after just four laps in the second session but he had probably already given them some punishment in the first session.

A number of the front runners had difficult days. Worst off was Mark Webber in the Red Bull who had to sit out of the majority of the second session with gearbox problems. His team-mate Vettel didn't fare much better and complained of understeer after sliding wide at the final corner on several occasions. Returning seven-time champion Schumacher also had a tough time and in the first session was quite obviously struggling to find a set-up. He was off the pace of Rosberg but appeared to improve throughout the day, finishing the day the best part of half a second off his team-mate.

However, his woes are nothing compared to HRT's. The new team ran its car for the first time on Friday but only managed to field Bruno Senna, meaning Karun Chandhok was left to observe from the garage. The team has been working flat out all weekend but its considerable efforts were not enough to give Chandhok his F1 debut. They will hope to make Saturday practice and qualifying, but even if they do, the car looks as though it will be around 10 seconds off the pace.

Lotus and Virgin had a comparatively smooth day and were five to six seconds off the front runners. The Lotus pair of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen just edged Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi on lap time. Both teams weren't without their problems but they appeared upbeat about the sessions.

The circuit also caused headaches for the teams, with many of the cars bottoming out in turn six on the new section of the track added for this year's event. The twisty infield section will cause set-up problems for the drivers, as they try to optimise their cars for its tighter corners as well as the wide open high-speed sections of the original layout. Jaime Alguersuari came close to a nasty accident coming out of the corner but just managed to save the car from hitting the barrier.

Free practice will resume tomorrow when the drivers are more likely to show their true qualifying pace.