The Scuderia’s dominance did not continue into the afternoon session, which was headed by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen.
Friday morning saw two changes to the traditional driver line-up, with Heikki Kovalainen making his debut as Caterham’s reserve driver – the Finn has been brought in by the team to provide a baseline from which the Leafield racers will be better equipped to evaluate (and improve) the CT03.
With two new drivers this season, it has been a challenge for the team to determine just where their car is lacking. But with input from Kovalainen, who has driven all of the four cars the team has developed since their 2010 arrival on the F1 grid, it was felt that ongoing balance issues would be more easily rectified before what the paddock is calling the team’s Barcelona ‘super-update’.
Making his FP1 debut this morning for Marussia was Rodolfo Gonzalez. The Venezuelan was only able to complete seven laps of Sakhir following a gearbox issue, but despite his limited track time Gonzalez ended the session only 0.8s behind more experienced rookie teammate Max Chilton.
Both Force India and Lotus spent the session evaluating new parts. The Enstone racers supplied Romain Grosjean with a new chassis following a slow start to the season for the Frenchman, who has been unable to keep up with his world champion teammate. After a good start, Grosjean’s efforts were hampered by KERS problems that cost the Lotus racer some track time.
Over in the Force India garage the mechanics were kept busy fitting new floors to the VJM06 of Adrian Sutil – the team brought along two versions for evaluation purposes, and both were run by the German F1 returnee.
The afternoon session saw less evaluation of parts and more work on rubber, with teams electing to run a combination of qualifying simulations and longer stints with a view to establishing their likely pace for the rest of the weekend.
As was the case last year, Lotus looked to be strong under the desert sun, with Raikkonen taking the top spot on the timesheets despite running wide on what turned out to be his pace-setting lap. There were worrying signs of degradation for the Finn, however, and the team brought him in to box earlier than anticipated when it transpired the E20 was heavier on its rubber than has been the case elsewhere.
Both sessions were largely free from incident, although Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez found himself on the receiving end of a puncture when he got too close to the Caterham of Charles Pic in an overtaking manoeuvre. The Mexican racer limped back to the pits after the pair’s wheels touched mid-pass.
Pic’s performance on Friday was the cause of some relief for Caterham, who have struggled for pace since the start of the season. But the Frenchman was able to keep ahead of both Marussias, giving the team hope that their planned Barcelona upgrade package will be what is needed to keep that coveted P10 in the constructors’ championship.
FP1 times (unofficial)
1. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m34.487s [11 laps]
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m34.564s [19 laps]
3. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m34.621s [22 laps]
4. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m34.790s [20 laps]
5. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1m34.949s [17 laps]
6. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m35.069s [22 laps]
7. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1m35.101s [19 laps]
8. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m35.119s [19 laps]
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1m35.345s [17 laps]
10. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m35.611s [14 laps]
11. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m35.640s [23 laps]
12. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m35.783s [16 laps]
13. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m35.792s [16 laps]
14. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m36.014s [19 laps]
15. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1m36.485s [20 laps]
16. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1m36.498s [17 laps]
17. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m36.755s [20 laps]
18. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m37.214s [21 laps]
19. Charles Pic (Caterham) 1m37.850s [20 laps]
20. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham) 1m38.401s [20 laps]
21. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m39.445s [12 laps]
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez (Marussia) 1m40.215s [7 laps]
FP2 times (unofficial)
1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 1m34.154s [31 laps]
2. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1m34.184s [26 laps]
3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m34.282s [29 laps]
4. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1m34.310s [28 laps]
5. Paul di Resta (Force India) 1m34.543s [35 laps]
6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1m34.552s [34 laps]
7. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1m34.631s [33 laps]
8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1m34.666s [37 laps]
9. Adrian Sutil (Force India) 1m34.932s [33 laps]
10. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m34.976s [29 laps]
11. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1m35.356s [32 laps]
12. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) 1m35.506s [36 laps]
13. Sergio Perez (McLaren) 1m35.5$9s [36 laps]
14. Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) 1m35.761s [33 laps]
15. Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1m36.133s [36 laps]
16. Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1m36.279s [33 laps]
17. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1m36.579s [28 laps]
18. Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1m36.616s [34 laps]
19. Charles Pic (Caterham) 1m37.061s [32 laps]
20. Max Chilton (Marussia) 1m37.313s [33 laps]
21. Jules Bianchi (Marussia) 1m37.363s [29 laps]
22. Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) 1m37.970s [34 laps] By Kate Walker