Friday in Bahrain: Mercedes on top but Button impress

A driver error by Sebastian Vettel meant a precise Mercedes to Ferrari comparison could not be established, and it would not be until the final practice session where the gap between the two teams could be established. However, without doubt Mercedes look to be in one class of their own, unless Ferrari are hiding some superior pace.

However, it was a sad end to Sebastian Vettel’s session where a wheel nut issue meant he had to pull over with some 14 minutes to go.

Story of the session

As the floodlights fell on the Bahrain International Circuit, the drivers quickly took to the track with the Manor and Haas drivers first to experience their evening-night F1 session, with Hulkenberg the fastest of the mid-field runners during the first runs.

Just nine minutes in, and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg set a blistering 1.32.173 to go over two seconds faster than the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen who put his first run in on the medium-compound tyres. Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton tried to pip Rosberg, however couldn’t get on terms with the German, ending his lap two tenths shy of Rosberg.

Further down the field, Red Bull showed their class during the early stages of the session, with Kvyat in thrid place, sitting less than two seconds off the Mercedes’ pairings ‘phenomenal’ lap.

After having a troubled first practice session, Sebastian Vettel returned to the circuit 15 minutes into the session, and the German flew straight into ‘best of the rest’ territory with third place, and half a second off the Mercedes duo.

During the opening stages, Max Verstappen took full advantage of the Ferrari powered Toro Rosso around the long straights of Bahrain, and sandwiched himself in between the two Red Bull drivers.

Valtteri Bottas for the first to trail the super-soft tyres at the Bahrain International Circuit, and despite the fastest tyre, wasn’t able to match the two Mercedes or Vettel, and had to settle for fourth place some six tenths off Rosberg’s lap on the soft compound tyres.

Before long the Mercedes drivers took to the track, and yet Rosberg retained his advantage, with Hamilton two tenths further back, with Rosberg dipping into the 1m.31 territory. Whilst in Ferrari’s case, Vettel made several mistakes on his super-soft lap, and wasn’t able to give a legitimate idea of what the Ferrari driver had in his hands.

As many were keen to see McLaren’s hand, Jenson Button produced a very surprising third place, being just 1.2 seconds off the two Mercedes drivers. Replacing Fernando Alonso for the weekend, Vandoorne wasn’t able to get on bars with Button’s impressive lap, and slotted into 10th place, and seven tenths down on Jenson Button.

After spending the first half of the session in the garage, Kimi Raikkonen took to track straight on the super-soft tyres, and set a 1m32.452, which was some 1.4 seconds down on Nico Rosberg.

Further down the field, Sergio Perez in the Force India failed to get in a clean lap on the super-soft tyres, and could only manage fifteenth place, and 2.4 seconds slower than pacesetter Nico Rosberg.

Pos. No. Driver Car Best lap Gap Laps
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’31.001 38
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’31.242 0.241 32
3 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1’32.281 1.280 32
4 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’32.406 1.405 31
5 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’32.452 1.451 38
6 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’32.650 1.649 26
7 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’32.703 1.702 34
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1’32.792 1.791 39
9 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1’32.870 1.869 23
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1’32.873 1.872 36
11 47 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1’32.999 1.998 30
12 21 Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari 1’33.129 2.128 31
13 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’33.177 2.176 36
14 8 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1’33.384 2.383 23
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1’33.406 2.405 35
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1’33.447 2.446 34
17 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’33.570 2.569 37
18 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’33.640 2.639 35
19 94 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 1’33.953 2.952 21
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1’34.224 3.223 31
21 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1’34.477 3.476 34
22 88 Rio Haryanto Manor-Mercedes 1’34.562 3.561 33