Lewis Hamilton (1:33.572) posted the fastest time in a generally uneventful first practice session of the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Sebastian Vettel, Paul Di Resta (the only driver to have used the softer tyres) Nico Rosberg, and Jenson Button completed the fastest five, as the top seven were covered by one second. Despite a complete lack of rain a possibility in the desert, teams got right on working, with many drivers out onto the only somewhat dusty track earlier in the session than usual on Friday morning. Ferrari remained slow, as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa managed only thirteenth and fifteenth fastest, respectively.
Vergne began the session moments after the lights went green in the heat of Bahrain. Quickly, Karthikeyan, Grosjean, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Webber, and Vettel joined in. Multiple drivers continued to circulate, posting installation laps before returning to the garage. Twenty minutes into the session, all drivers had posted at least one installation lap. Hulkenberg and Perez had both posted three laps, but no driver had yet set a time in the sunny and dusty desert. Hulkenberg (1:36.855) was the first to do so, about five minutes later, with teammate Di Resta a half second slower. The first third of the session remained generally uneventful as teams took their time in getting to the clearing of the green circuit.
1 Hour Remaining:
Only Hulkenberg (1:34.859), Di Resta, Grosjean, and Kobayashi were the only drivers to have set a time a half hour into the session. Grosjean soon improved to go fastest by just .01s. A few other drivers began to set times and use a bit of the run off areas. With most of them extensively the covered with asphalt, there were few consequences for the recurrent off-and-ons inherent on the green track. More and more drivers set times and shuffled the order as halfway approached. Nearing that point, two-thirds of the field had set times. At halfway, Vettel (1:33.877) led Raikkonen by nearly eight tenths, with Webber, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, Perez, Maldonado, Alonso, and Bottas as the top ten. It lasted only moments, as Rosberg went third fastest on his first timed lap, then Webber moved up to second fastest, only to have Schumacher take that position, six tenths slower than Vettel. At that point, Glock, Pic, Kovalainen, Hamilton, Petrov, and Button all lacked timed laps.
Just over five minutes later, only Pic, Glock, and Hamilton had yet to set times. At the top, Vettel still led, over Rosberg, Schumacher, Button, and Webber. Meanwhile, Hamilton had posted a fastest of all first sector, on his way to a second fastest lap time, just .056s slower than the reigning world champion. Two laps later, Hamilton went fastest of all, three tenths faster than Vettel. At that point, only Hamilton of the top eleven was on the track, with only a handful of other drivers joining him.
30 Minutes Remaining:
With just one third of the ninety minute session remaining, only Webber, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Bottas, Pic, Glock, de la Rosa, and Karthikeyan were circulating. Hamilton still led Vettel, as Rosberg, Button, Schumacher, Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, and Di Resta completed the top ten. Alonso was thirteenth and Massa fifteenth fastest. Soon, more drivers began heading back out on to the track. After, at the very least, spots of rain in the first four races, the continually very hot conditions of Bahrain looked to show an interesting new layer of tyre wear to the mix.
Times began to stagnate in the final half hour as teams worked on longer race runs. Di Resta also had KERS issues, with his engineer eventually telling him to just shut the system down. Teammate Hulkenberg looked to improve his time with a personal best sector one, but slowed right down in the second and third sectors. Button next performed similarly, pushing through the first sector and slowing in the latter stages of the lap.
10 Minutes Remaining:
Hamilton continued to lead as the final ten minutes of the session began. Vettel, Rosberg, Button, Hulkenberg, Schumacher, Webber, Raikkonen, Di Resta, and Grosjean completed the fastest ten, as they had with twenty minutes to go. Di Resta became the first driver of the weekend to use the softer tyres with just over eight to go and subsequently moved up to third fastest. Nearly all the drivers made their way back onto the track for the final minutes, though McLaren had decided to stay in the garage. In the end, Hamilton retained the fastest lap time as a second covered the lap times of the top nine.
Final Times for FP1, 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:33.572 11 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:33.877 0.305 21 3. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:34.150 0.578 26 4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.249 0.677 23 5. Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.277 0.705 14 6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:34.344 0.722 26 7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:34.483 0.911 17 8. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:34.552 0.980 22 9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:34.609 1.037 18 10. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:34.847 1.275 20 11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:35.024 1.452 22 12. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:35.268 1.696 25 13. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:35.436 1.864 21 14. Valtteri Bottas* Williams 1:35.497 1.925 24 15. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:35.719 2.147 19 16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:35.929 2.357 24 17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:36.195 2.623 20 18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:36.330 2.758 11 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:36.484 2.912 18 20. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:36.591 3.019 20 21. Charles Pic Marussia 1:37.467 3.895 18 22. Timo Glock Marussia 1:38.006 4.434 18 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:38.877 5.305 19 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:39.996 6.424 23