Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Bahrain GP – Nothing new under the sun
Sakhir, 20 April – Nothing new for Scuderia Ferrari in the first free practice session for the fourth round of the world championship, held this morning at the Sakhir circuit. The Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso (1.35.436) and Felipe Massa (1.35.719) finished thirteenth and fifteenth. Lewis Hamilton (1.33.572) was fastest for McLaren, ahead of Sebastian Vettel (1.33.877) in the Red Bull and the Force India of Paul di Resta (1.35.150.) Both Ferrari men struggled a bit on the Medium tyres on the dusty Bahrain track, where the main problem is a lack of traction. This afternoon comes the second free practice aimed at gathering data, mainly on the aerodynamic behaviour of the car.

Bahrain GP – A Friday of learning
Sakhir, 20 April – Nico Rosberg topped the second free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix that has just finished at the Sakhir circuit. Behind the German driver’s Mercedes (1.32.816) in second and third places were the Red Bulls of Mark Webber (1.33.262) and Sebastian Vettel (1.33.525), while the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were 8th (1.34.449) and 12th (1.34.941).

The planned Friday programme of data collection was completed using different solutions for the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers. Both carried out long runs on heavy fuel loads, with the medium compound for Fernando and the soft for Felipe. In addition there were practice pit stops and starts before they came back into the pits.

The action will begin again tomorrow morning at 11am for the third and final session of free practice.

Bahrain GP – Tyre testing in the heat of Bahrain
Coming from the Far to the Middle East has not changed much for Scuderia Ferrari, apart from the much higher temperatures on this island in the Persian Gulf, than in China. Therefore it looks like another weekend on the defensive for Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, whose F2012s are practically identical to the way they were seven days ago in Shanghai. Today went off without any technical hitches and that meant the team was able to gather all the necessary information to be as well prepared as possible for tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s race. The F2012 covered a total of 101 laps, equivalent to around 550 kilometres: 52 for Fernando, 49 for Felipe.

Fernando Alonso: “Traditionally, I’ve always gone well at this track, one of the few where I have won three times. And so it’s always a pleasure to drive at Sakhir and once again today I had fun. The first day of the Bahrain Grand Prix is always very difficult, because the track conditions are never at their best, mainly because of the sand and wind. On top of that, this track is used only very rarely, which adds to making Friday hard to interpret, maybe more so than other places. That is why, basing all your choices in terms of set-up on what one has seen today is not always the right move, because we need to bear in mind that the track will change a lot between now and Sunday. We tried as best we could to check the tyre behaviour: we have the same ones as in Shanghai, but the temperature is very different. There is still a lot to do, especially on the rear end, to try and find more grip.”

Felipe Massa: “It was a very hot day, on which we concentrated mainly on analysing the behaviour of the Pirelli tyres. From what we could see today, the degradation is very marked with both compounds, more so than at other tracks. It was an important task, especially looking to the race, but also for the session that will decide the grid positions. Without a doubt, we still have a lot of work to do. The fundamental thing will be to put together a car that is consistent in performance terms, to try and slow the rate of tyre degradation.”

Pat Fry: “Only the track has changed and the car has remained practically identical, therefore it would be hard for our position relative to the others to be any different. Above all, we are at a track where traction and straight line speed are two key factors in achieving a competitive performance and, currently, the F2012 has shown itself to be particularly lacking in precisely these two areas. Therefore why should we be surprised by our position and the gaps to the quickest? In contrast to Shanghai, the temperatures are much higher here, which has a significant effect on tyre behaviour. Today, we did the usual work, comparing aerodynamic configurations that are slightly different to one another, while also working on the set-up of the two cars. Now it’s a case of analysing the data well and putting together the best of what we’ve got. We can expect qualifying to be very tough tomorrow: there’s no denying that getting both cars into Q3 will be very difficult.”

First session Second session
Driver Pos. Time Laps Pos. Time Laps Chassis
F. Alonso 13th 1.35.436 21 8th 1.34.449 31 295
F. Massa 15th 1.35.719 19 12th 1.34.941 30 294

First session: air 27/29 °C, track 34/39 °C. Clear skies.
Second session: air 31 °C, track 44/42 °C. Clear skies.

Bahrain GP – Tough times in the desert sands
Sakhir, 20 April – As expected, given that the F2012 used by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are, in broad outline, the same here as they were a few days ago in Shanghai, there were no miracles in terms of performance for the Scuderia Ferrari duo. Fernando Alonso ended the day with the eighth fastest time having completed a total over the three hours of 52 laps, just five short of Sunday’s race distance. Felipe Massa was twelfth and did three laps less than his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate. It’s not just that five days is not exactly enough time to come up with some performance enhancements, but on top of that, the Sakhir track, which in the past has proved a happy hunting ground for Prancing Horse drivers, puts demands on two qualities in which the F2012 is lacking, namely traction and top speed.

Working here is tough: the heat is exhausting for the mechanics in the garage, while the engineers face the headache of having to come up with a car set-up on a track where today’s conditions, level of grip and so forth, are very different to those the drivers will encounter in Sunday’s fourth round of the World Championship. Tyre wear is significant and managing the Medium and Soft Pirellis, especially those fitted to the rear of the cars, will be one of the most important factors. A car that gets the most out of them will deliver a fast lap time in tomorrow’s qualifying and one that is also kind on them will open up greater strategic choices for the race, thanks to the ability to run longer stints.

A few days ago, his name topped the time sheet at the end of the Chinese Grand Prix and today, Nico Rosberg did the same, going quickest in his Mercedes in the second of today’s 90 minute free practice sessions. The Mercedes man was the only driver to break the 1m 33s barrier. Second and third were the two Red Bulls, with Mark Webber ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Next was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, with Michael Schumacher fifth in the Mercedes and Jenson Button completing the top six for McLaren.