2014 Bahrain GP Practice Two: Lewis Hamilton caps stellar start for Mercedes
Merc a full second clear of otherwise closely-matched field; Sakhir goes under lights for the first time; Track breakdowns for Chilton and Sutil
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 05/04/14 1:54pm
Mercedes' status as the overwhelming favourites to complete a hat-trick of victories at the start of F1's new turbo era at the Bahrain GP has been emphatically strengthened after Lewis Hamilton headed an even more dominant one-two for the team in Practice Two.
Marking the 14th time a Mercedes W05 has headed the timesheet in the 16 on-track sessions since the season started in Melbourne last month, Hamilton was a full second quicker than the nearest non-W05 with Nico Rosberg three-tenths adrift in the sister car as the drivers tackled a floodlit Sakhir for the first time.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner had warned in the build-up to the weekend that the stop-start layout of the circuit was likely to increase Mercedes' advantage over the field, and on the evidence of the opening day of running at Sakhir, his prediction looks set to prove depressingly accurate for the chasing pack.
"Red Bull have a lot of work to do tonight if they are to bother Mercedes in the grand prix," surmised Sky F1's Martin Brundle after watching the Mercedes-dominated action unfold from trackside.
It means that a repeat of last weekend at Sepang, which witnessed a direct duel for honours between Hamilton and Rosberg, looks likely to unfold with neither single-lap or long-run pace offering much hope to the distant challengers.
"We struggled a bit on the tyres as everyone did. The car feels better than when we were testing here. Balance-wise, it was extremely good. There are still some tweaks we need to make it feel perfect, but I'm feeling good," a relaxed-looking Hamilton told Sky F1.
However, the relative good news for the prospect of close inter-team battles through the weekend is that little separated Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and McLaren on the P2 timesheet.
Indeed, just over two tenths of a second covered Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in third to Red Bull's World Champion Sebastian Vettel down in seventh, with Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Felipe Massa (Williams) and Jenson Button (McLaren) finishing in between the pair of three-times Sakhir winners.
Red Bull, meanwhile, suffered yet another fuel-flow sensor failure on Ricciardo's car.
The lead Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat, chasing a third straight points finish at the start of his F1 career this weekend, was close behind the bigger hitters in eighth with his fellow rookie Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) and Force India's Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten.
The latter was involved in a near-miss at the start of the session when he encountered a trundling Mercedes of Rosberg down the backstraight, Perez having to take sudden avoidance action as the W05, appearing to be caught unawares by his presence, briefly jinking in his direction. The incident was looked at by the stewards after the session and Rosberg was issued with a reprimand.
While several drivers, including the dominant Mercedes pair, suffered lock-ups under braking into the tricky Turn Ten, Max Chilton was involved in the day's most dramatic incident when his Marussia violently spun off the circuit at Turn Four after what the team later confirmed was a front-left brake disc failure.
Struggling Sauber, already lapping two-and-a-half seconds off the pace at the bottom end of the midfield, ran into their own reliability problems after Adrian Sutil ground to a halt on track.
Meanwhile, after being outperformed by new team-mate Alonso in each of the opening two race weekends of 2014, Kimi Raikkonen endured another low-key day and ended P2 down in 14th place, the Finn's quickest lap a full second slower than the sister Ferrari's