An update from Free Practice at the Bahrain International Circuit as the track action gets underway for the third round of the 2017 Formula One season.
When Bahrain's grand prix organisers decided in 2014 to embrace the night-racing trend pioneered by Singapore, it carried with it the slight sniff of gimmickry, a vague feeling that the circuit was willing to try anything, no matter how costly, to make it stand out in a crowd of 'F1 new builds' all desperately trying to attract overseas tourist dollars.
I think the low fuel pace looks competitive
Drivers spend a large chunk of time dropping the power heavily out of slow corners and the fuel burn is high as a result. In these days of restricted radio, when engineers are only allowed to report a situation to a driver when its critical, the need for drivers to be sensible with fuel consumption will be key.
In Free Practice One, Daniel took P2 with a 1:33.097 after 22 laps of RB13 progress in Sakhir. Max claimed P3 with a 1:33.566, completing 23 laps for the session. Topping the timesheets was Sebastian Vettel with a 1:32.697.
Free Practice Two saw Daniel finish in P3 with a 1:31.376 and 28 laps, while Max finished up in P8 and a 1:32.245, after 18 laps in the second session. Sebastian Vettel continued to top the timesheets with a 1:31.310, despite experiencing some problems with his Ferrari that saw him stop and start throughout the session.
A hot Free Practice Three saw both drivers complete 8 laps, with Max topping the table with a quick 1:32.194, beating both the Ferrari's and the Mercedes' to the post. Daniel finished up in 7th with a 1:32.809.
Commenting on the day, Daniel said: "Today was good. FP1 is always a tricky one here in order to set the car up, because it's so hot and the race is so cool so you have to be careful not to get carried away with what you learn during that first session. FP2 looked alright though. Normally the grip gets a lot better when the track cools down in the late afternoon, so that helped but the wind changed and the way the wind turned actually made the track slower. I think the low fuel pace looks competitive, but probably too competitive for now.
In FP2 I lost track time after hitting someone's T-wing
"I do like it but I expect Ferrari and Mercedes to sneak further ahead tomorrow. But in general it was a good day. We couldn't really ask for more. The long runs looked like they had a bit more pace so that was probably a bit more representative. I think we did what we had to do today so I'm happy. Let's make tomorrow a good one also."
Looking back on his day, Max said: "I was struggling a bit with the balance today and I didn't quite have the grip I wanted from the rear of the car. The first practice you cannot really count or read into because of the high temperatures but now in FP2 I lost track time after hitting someone's T-wing. It was unfortunate and to be honest I'm surprised how much damage it actually did to the floor. The team did a great job to change it so quickly and check the car over before I went back out on track.
"The other side of the garage looks quite competitive and now we need to review which configuration was better from the two cars and then apply that for tomorrow. My aim in FP3 will be to get as many laps in as possible to make up for the lost time today and then I will have a better idea of our target for the weekend."