Tuesday 22 August 2017

Rosberg sets the early pace in practice

Mercedes Formula One Driver Nico Rosberg of Germany drives during the second free practice ahead of Bahrain's F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, south of Manama April 17 (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
Mercedes Formula One Driver Nico Rosberg of Germany drives during the second free practice ahead of Bahrain's F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, south of Manama April 17 (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)
This is a crucial race for Rosberg (REUTERS/Aly Song)

Motorsport - Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in early practice for tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix, but the signs are that Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen could still launch a serious challenge in today's qualifying and the race itself.

The first session at the Sakhir International Circuit here is often derided as the "most meaningless of the season", because the nature of the track and its desert location makes the surface very slippery early on before it "grips up" as more rubber goes down.

However, that didn't stop it being an exciting 90 minutes yesterday as eight drivers took turns at the top of the timesheets. Names such as Rosberg, Valtteri Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen and, at a push given his team's strife so far this season, Daniel Ricciardo, might have been expected.

But it was a major surprise to see Fernando Alonso fleetingly put his McLaren in the No 1 position, before Jos and Sophie Verstappen watched their 17-year-old son Max take over and wheel his Toro Rosso into the top slot.

By the end, Raikkonen deposed his team-mate Vettel by two-tenths of a second, as the Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton languished in 15th and 16th places.

But racing is as much about knowing when to go fast as it is when not to, as Hamilton had reminded Rosberg last weekend in China. This time there was no need for them to resort to using a valuable set of fresh tyres, as their rivals had. By the second session, Hamilton was back on top on the same tyres, albeit by just a tenth of a second from Vettel.

This is a crucial race for Rosberg. Narrowly beaten after a tough battle with Hamilton here last year, he has yet to upstage his world champion team-mate so far this season and risks losing momentum, face and, possibly, motivation, if he can't get back into the game. (© Independent News Service)

Bahrain GP, live, tomorrow, Sky Sports F1, 4.00

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