Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren at the top of first practice in Bahrain, ahead of the BMWs

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    Lewis Hamilton put his McLaren at the top of first practice in Bahrain, ahead of the BMWs

    Post by Ross on 24th April 2009, 09:29

    Hamilton sets early pace in Bahrain

    Fastest: World champion put McLaren back on top of the timesheets, much like last Friday

    Lewis Hamilton made an impressive start to the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend by topping the first practice times by over 0.2s on Friday morning at Sakhir.

    The reigning world champion used a fresh set of medium compound tyres mid-way through the opening session to clock a time of 1m33.647s – an effort over half a second faster than any other driver managed on the same rubber.

    Indeed the men in second and third on the timesheet, the KERS-equipped BMW duo of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica, had only got that high by dint of using the faster super-soft tyres for their final flying laps, vaulting up the order to finish under 0.3s down on Hamilton.

    Nico Rosberg made yet another promising start to a 2009 race weekend for Williams in fourth, consolidating his position on his final lap on medium tyres with a 1m34.227s.

    Championship leader Brawn was solid, if unspectacular, on Friday morning, Jenson Button and team-mate Rubens Barrichello fifth and seventh respectively.

    Hamilton’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen completed an encouraging morning for the fast-improving McLaren by splitting the Brawns, while the lead Ferrari of Felipe Massa was eighth in the sole KERS-equipped F60.

    With blazing sunshine and 33C temperatures at the desert venue proving a world away from the torrential weather at last Sunday’s Chinese GP, drivers appeared quite happy to relax in their garages for the opening phase of the session.
    Indeed the wait for the opening flying lap was even longer than normal on a Friday morning, Sebastien Bourdais not doing so until just after the session clock had ticked past the half an hour mark.

    The Toro Rosso driver, under pressure to deliver an improved performance at Sakhir following rookie team-mate Sebastien Buemi’s impressive start to F1 life, initially posted a time of 1m38.697s, before setting a far quicker effort of 1m36.790s next time around.

    It also took the next man on the circuit, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, two laps to set a fast time – but the Finn’s initial sluggish flying lap had nothing to do with tyre temperatures.

    Going over the kerbs on the inside of the second corner, his F60 seemed to get unsettled and as he put the power down he lost the back end of the car, spinning round through the gravel and only narrowly avoiding clipping the tyre barrier with his rear wing.

    To his credit the spin didn’t seem to knock his concentration and, after Rosberg had moved to the front with a lap of 1m36.069s, Raikkonen recomposed himself for his second effort and went 0.014s faster to move ahead.

    His Williams rival, however, went quicker and quicker as his opening stint progressed, eventually moving the benchmark time to 1m34.363s.

    Surprisingly there was only one more change of the order at the front from here on in, with Hamilton moving up from third on the times with two consecutive laps that were faster than anyone else on the same tyres managed all session.

    After initially clocking 1m34.189s, the Briton went a full half second faster on his next tour and his time would remain unbeaten despite the session having over half an hour to run.

    BMW got closest of all in the dying stages, but Heidfeld and Kubica’s vault up the order from midfield obscurity owed more to the faster super-soft tyres than any signs of competitive pace the F1.09 had showed up until that point.

    While Rosberg and Kovalainen also made late gains, but on the medium compound, there was an interesting pecking order further back.

    Shanghai winner Red Bull made a low-key start to its weekend, with Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel running under the radar throughout the 90 minutes to end up ninth and 12th respectively.

    Raikkonen matched Webber’s 1m34.827s time to round up the top 10, with the sister Williams of Kazuki Nakajima a fraction slower in 11th.

    Renault’s under-pressure driver Nelson Piquet has expressed confidence the introduction of the team’s interim diffuser onto his car for this weekend will help him improve on his dismal start to the season and he made a solid that to that aim with 13th.

    Indeed the Brazilian lapped 0.4s faster than team-mate Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard spent the entire session among the backmarkers – although he surely has more speed to come in the improving R29.

    Most pundits would expect similarly big improvements from Toyota, the team tipped to go particularly well this weekend given its pre-season testing experience from Bahrain.

    However, any benefit from its winter work has yet to show on the times with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock only 15th and 17th.

    Force India made a promising start to the weekend with its updated VJM02, with interim diffuser, new floor and revised front wing propelling Adrian Sutil to 14th.

    Toro Rosso took up position at the bottom of the order, with Buemi’s session cut short with six minutes remaining after his STR2 cut out at turn eight after he bounced over the run-off area on entry to the corner.

    The downhill braking zone for the tight left-handed turn 10 caused particular problems, with Kovalainen, Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) running off the circuit completely and Hamilton and Heidfeld two drivers to run wide on exit.

    Bahrain Grand Prix free practice session one

    1. HAMILTON McLaren 1m33.647s
    2. HEIDFELD BMW 1m33.907s
    3. KUBICA BMW 1m33.938s
    4. ROSBERG Williams 1m34.227s
    5. BUTTON Brawn 1m34.434s
    6. KOVALAINEN McLaren 1m34.502s
    7. BARRICHELLO Brawn 1m34.531s
    8. MASSA Ferrari 1m34.589s
    9. WEBBER Red Bull 1m34.827s
    10. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1m34.827s
    11. NAKAJIMA Williams 1m34.880s
    12. VETTEL Red Bull 1m34.938s
    13 PIQUET Renault 1m34.974s
    14. SUTIL Force India 1m35.021s
    15. TRULLI Toyota 1m35.036s
    16. FISICHELLA Force India 1m35.042s
    17 GLOCK Toyota 1m35.333s
    18. ALONSO Renault 1m35.348s
    19. BOURDAIS Toro Rosso 1m35.353s
    20. BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m35.369s

    Source: itv.com/f1

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