Nico Rosberg (1:32.816) was fastest in the second practice session for the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix. The German was nearly a half second faster the Mark Webber, who ended the session second fastest while Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Schumacher completed the fastest five. The bigger story, however, came from Force India who decided to sit out FP2 in order to get the cars ready for qualifying and the race so as to return to the hotel during daylight hours. Throughout the session, most other teams indicated that Force India was not losing too much from skipping a session, as they still had all the other teams’ times and their running in FP1 and FP3.
Hamilton (1:33.572) led the way in the first Friday morning practice session over Vettel and a surprising Di Resta. The Scotsman put his Force India nearer the top of the timesheets by unusually using a set of soft tyres,a dn was the only driver to do so in FP1. Rosberg and Button completed the fastest five, with McLaren and Mercedes again looking solid after the morning’s running. Though the track was dusty as expected, it was also less dusty than expected, leading to rather more running than usual in the early stages of the first practice. Despite the typical boundary-testing lockups and gripless uses of runoff areas, there were no incidents.
However, Force India decided that they would not run in FP2 so as to ensure that they would leave the circuit during daytime hours. They would work to “deliver a qualifying and race program” with as much running as possible, but would ensure that after yesterday’s incident involving FI personnel that they would leave at a time that responded to the “emotion” of team members. Bernie Eccelstone indicated in an interview that he had offered to ride back to the hotel in the car with the Force India mechanics as a show of faith that the trip is safe. Later Ecclestone said to the press, “I think you guys want a story and it is a good story. What we really need is an earthquake or something like that, so you can write about that now…”
No one sat waiting for the light to go green, but Karthikeyan was the first to head out onto the circuit. Maldonado, Pic, and Glock soon followed. Quickly, Maldonado (1:36.518) led the timesheets, with Vergne, Glock, Karthikeyan, and Pic the top five. Ten minutes into the session, Button (1:34.500) held the fast lap, with Perez, Ricciardo, Kobayashi, Maldonado, Raikkonen, Vergne, Petrov, Kovalainen, and Grosjean the top ten. Hamilton and Schumacher were then out, but had not yet posted a timed lap. Schumacher’s first time was nearly thirteen seconds off Button’s pace, but he soon improved to second fastest, just .005s slower than Button. Webber next went very quickly, taking more than a tenth off Button’s time, while Alonso slotted into fourth. Rosberg completed the top five, around fifteen minutes into the session.
It would not last long, as Rosberg improved to go fastest, only to be eclipsed by his teammate by .017s. While the top three traded their lap times, much of the rest of the field had returned and remained in the garage. Vettel posted a mega lap to go nearly seven tenths faster than Schumacher. With only a handful of drivers on the track, the rest began to head back out as the first third of the ninety minute session approached its conclusion.
1 Hour Remaining:
Vettel (1:33.639) remained on top over Schumacher, Rosberg, Webber, Kobayashi, Perez, Hamilton, Vergne, and Alonso as the fastest ten with an hour to go. Only the Force India drivers had not set a time at that point. Hamilton, in seventh, radioed to the team that he wanted the car to go back to what it was like in FP1 in order to find the time he needed. As Vettel improved his time by just over a tenth, Rosberg had also gone out on the softer tyre compound. The Mercedes driver (1:32.816) went fastest, becoming the first driver to post a lap time in the 1:32s.
Webber, Alonso, and Raikkonen all joined them in switching to the softer tyre compound. The Australian was the first to improve, moving up to second. Alonso moved up to sixth, but Raikkonen had to scrap his lap after having something of a wobble on his fast lap. Alonso had an even bigger one at Turn 4, as the rear of his Ferrari continued to step out on him.
At halfway, most of the drivers had returned to their garages and were beginning to head back out after the first softer tyre runs. Rosberg, Webber, Vettel, and Schumacher remained ensconced in pit lane, as Kobayashi, Alonso, Button, Grosjean, Hamilton, and Perez completed the top ten. On the radio, Alonso and engineer Andrea Stella had a discussion of the tyre wear of the softer compound, with Alonso indicating that he would have to continue posting hard laps on the terribly worn tyres because it had to be done, despite Stella indicating that he could come in if he so chose. Meanwhile, Schumacher posted the fastest first sector of all, only to back off in the second and third after going over some kerbing and getting caught in traffic. Drivers continued to work through tyre issues and lack of rear grip with various fuel loads in the latter half of the middle of the practice session, working on race simulations.
30 Minutes Remaining:
The top five running order remained the same as the final half hour began with continued longer runs coming from most of the drivers. With the track cooling slightly from the higher temperatures when faster laptimes were set and teams well set into race simulation, it looked unlikely that lap times would improve with twenty minutes remaining.
10 Minutes Remaining:
As the minutes ticked away, nearly all the drivers were out working on race pace but were making no lap time improvements. With seven minutes remaining, all but the Force India drivers were out. On the track, the final interesting moments had Schumacher giving Vettel a small scrap before disengaging from his fellow German. No changes occurred in the final seconds, nor did any incidents. Rosberg continued to show some fast pace from Mercedes, while Red Bull seemed to be on the way to improvement over the first couple of races.
Final Times for FP2, 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.816 35 2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:33.262 0.446 26 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:33.525 0.709 28 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:33.747 0.931 26 5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:33.862 1.046 32 6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.246 1.430 28 7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:34.411 1.595 34 8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.449 1.633 31 9. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:34.615 1.799 32 10. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:34.893 2.077 34 11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:34.895 2.079 29 12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.941 2.125 30 13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:35.183 2.367 33 14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:35.229 2.413 26 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:35.459 2.643 38 16. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:35.913 3.097 33 17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:35.968 3.152 35 18. Bruno Senna Williams 1:36.169 3.353 30 19. Timo Glock Marussia 1:36.587 3.771 33 20. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:37.803 4.987 33 21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:37.812 4.996 28 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:39.803 6.833 27 23. Paul Di Resta* Force India n/t n/t n/t 24. Nico Hulkenberg* Force India n/t n/t n/t
*Force India did not run in FP2 to return team members to the hotel during daylight hours