April 19th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Finland's Kimi Raikkonen set the pace in today's second Free Practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Red Bulls followed in second and third. But perhaps the most impressive performance came from the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who managed to deliver consistently strong lap times on higher fuel.
FP2 saw the first use of the option tyre, which is the medium compound this weekend. The teams generally conduct back-to-back tests of the two compounds in FP2 to ascertain the gap in performance. While it is impossible to know what the fuel loads were, which would greatly influence the relative performance of the tyres, the times set suggest that the medium tyre is about seven tenths of a second faster than the hard compound tyre.
Esteban Gutierrez had a strange incident where he made a mistake while trying to pass a Catertham, appeared to make the slightest contact with his left front tyre against the front wing of the Caterham, and ended up with a puncture. Unfortunately for Gutierrez, he was on a new set of medium tyres, which he would have wanted to use for a low-fuel run, but the set was ruined by the puncture.
Jules Bianchi made his first appearance of the weekend, after Rodolfo Gonzalez took over his car for FP1. As a result of missing out on the morning session, Bianchi spent FP2 getting up to speed on a fairly unfamiliar track, and ended up slower than his team-mate, Max Chilton, for the first time in any session this season. Chilton has been thoroughly overshadowed by Bianchi so far in 2013, and will no doubt take confidence from getting the upper hand on his talented team-mate, even though the difference between the two Marussia drivers was just five hundredths of a second.
At Caterham, Giedo van der Garde was back in car number 21, after Heikki Kovalainen drove it in FP1. Van der Garde finished the session nine tenths of a second behind team-mate Charles Pic. He will want to reduce that deficit significantly in FP3 tomorrow morning before qualifying.
Many of the drivers were struggling for rear grip in the second half of the session, when they were running higher fuel and driving on tyres that had already done a few laps. Some rain between FP1 and FP2 could have washed away some of the rubber on the track, which would contribute to the lack of rear grip, so it is possible that the situation will improve through the weekend.
The early indications are that Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes are looking strong for Sunday's race, although Mercedes could struggle with tyre wear in race conditions. However, their single lap pace is good, so Hamilton and Rosberg should be in the fight for pole position tomorrow.
Full session results:
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.184||0.030||26|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.282||0.128||29|
|5||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:34.543||0.389||35|
|9||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:34.932||0.778||33|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:37.970||3.816||34|