• Bahrain Grand Prix - FP1

Hamilton sets early pace in Bahrain

ESPNF1 Staff
April 20, 2012
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first practice session in Bahrain © Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton set the pace as attention in Bahrain finally turned towards the race track for the first practice session of the grand prix weekend.

Hamilton's time of 1:33.572 was 0.305s faster than his nearest competitor, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, in what was a fairly routine session. The only team to break the mould was Force India, which opted to use soft tyres - the compound usually reserved for second practice - towards the end of the session and set the third fastest time with Paul di Resta. But there were just a handful of spectators in the grandstands to witness it, as several journalists reported beefed up secuirty on the way in to the circuit.

Chinese Grand Prix race winner Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest, 0.677s slower than Hamilton, as Mercedes focused on understanding tyre degradation in the heat of Bahrain. Track temperature peaked at 42C by the end of the session with visible graining on the front left tyres of several cars, while the rears suffered with degradation after taking a beating out of the slower corners. Dust on the circuit was not as bad as some teams were expecting, but several drivers still struggled to slow their cars sufficiently for the tricky turn 10 and ran wide.

Jenson Button was fifth fastest in the second McLaren, 0.705s off team-mate Hamilton, and just ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who also made use of soft tyres towards the end of the session. Michael Schumacher was seventh fastest ahead of Mark Webber and the two Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

Ferrari is expecting a tough weekend in the heat and Fernando Alonso finished the session 1.864s off Hamilton. Felipe Massa was also off the pace, but may have taken some satisfaction from being just 0.283s off his team-mate.

After a tricky weekend in China, Toro Rosso's struggles appeared to continue with Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo split by the two Caterhams. Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov looked in good shape, despite Kovalainen completing just 11 laps, as both were much closer to the midfield pack and over a second clear of Caterham's usual rivals Marussia.