Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bravissimo! Felipe Massa leads Ferrari 1-2 in GP Bahrain

Felipe Massa rebounded from his shaky start to the 2008 season by beating teammate Kimi Raikkonen to victory in a Ferrari-dominated Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pole-winner Robert Kubica took another podium for BMW in third, ahead of teammate Nick Heidfeld - a result that puts the team into the lead of the constructors' championship for the first time in their short history.

But it was a disastrous day for pre-race championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and McLaren. The Briton lost seven places off the line with a very poor start, then hit former teammate Fernando Alonso and broke his front wing. He could only finish 13th, while teammate Heikki Kovalainen was a quiet fifth.

Massa instantly shot past front row partner Kubica and into the race lead at the start, with Kovalainen dodging around Hamilton to move up to third. The Finn out-muscled countryman Raikkonen through Turns 1 and 2, but was repassed by the world champion further ahead the opening lap.

Raikkonen then rapidly caught and passed Kubica for second, driving around the outside of the Pole at Turn 1 on lap three, while Kovalainen lost another place to Heidfeld when he ran wide on the same lap.

Hamilton's bad start had dropped him to 10th, and he was attempting to pass Alonso for ninth when he clipped the back of the Renault as they accelerated out of Turn 2. The McLaren briefly became airborne and lost its front wing, leaving Hamilton down in 18th and a minute behind the leaders after he pitted for repairs.

This tangle was one of several early incidents, with Jenson Button (Honda), Adrian Sutil (Force India) and David Coulthard (Red Bull) all having to pit with damage after a chaotic opening lap. Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel sustained broken suspension, while Renault driver Nelson Piquet spun down the order on the second lap. He recovered several positions before retiring with gearbox failure.

At the front, Massa edged away from Raikkonen and established a five-second early lead. Kubica kept Raikkonen under pressure until pitting on lap 17, three laps earlier than Raikkonen, who was the first Ferrari driver to stop.

With Kubica then losing time behind Toyota's Timo Glock, who was running a very long first stint, the Ferraris took control of the middle part of the race. Raikkonen narrowed Massa's advantage to three seconds with a series of fastest laps, but the Brazilian always had enough speed in hand and managed to rebuild his lead again.

By the time the final stops were completed, Massa's lead was back up to seven seconds, while Raikkonen had to focus on the resurgent Kubica, who stopped later than the Ferraris and got back within three seconds of second place. The Finn stayed ahead though, and now leads the championship.

Heidfeld also led several laps with an extremely late final stop, helping him to secure fourth, comfortably ahead of Kovalainen. The McLaren set the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages, but still finished nearly 30 seconds behind the victorious Massa.

Jarno Trulli had a very strong race to sixth for Toyota, pressuring Kovalainen in the middle stages. The Italian was able to pull away from the chasing Mark Webber (Red Bull), who passed Nico Rosberg's Williams for seventh at the first stops.

Glock's strategy allowed him to run as high as third, and he ultimately beat Alonso to ninth as the damaged Renault struggled to hold off Rubens Barrichello in the final laps.

Hamilton had to settle for 13th behind Giancarlo Fisichella's Force India, taking the place with a late move on Williams' Kazuki Nakajima.

Behind Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais and the two Super Aguris, Coulthard finished 18th after a collision with Button. The Honda driver attempted to pass Coulthard as both chased the midfield pack, but rode up over the side of the Red Bull and had to retire. Coulthard managed to rejoin and coax his battered car to the flag.


The Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain;
57 laps; 308.238km;
Weather: Sunny.


Pos Driver Team Time

1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1h31:06.970
2. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) + 3.339
3. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 4.998
4. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 8.409
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 26.789
6. Trulli Toyota (B) + 41.314
7. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 45.473
8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) + 55.889
9. Glock Toyota (B) + 1:09.500
10. Alonso Renault (B) + 1:17.181
11. Barrichello Honda (B) + 1:17.862
12. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
13. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap
14. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) + 1 lap
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) + 1 lap
16. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) + 1 lap
17. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) + 1 lap
18. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1 lap
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) + 2 laps

Fastest lap: Kovalainen, 1:33.193

Not classified/retirements:

Driver Team On lap

Piquet Renault (B) 42
Button Honda (B) 20
Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1

World Championship standings, round 3:

Drivers: Constructors:

1. Raikkonen 19 1. BMW Sauber 30
2. Heidfeld 16 2. Ferrari 29
3. Hamilton 14 3. McLaren-Mercedes 28
4. Kovalainen 14 4. Williams-Toyota 10
5. Kubica 14 5. Toyota 8
6. Massa 10 6. Renault 6
7. Trulli 8 7. Red Bull-Renault 4
8. Rosberg 7 8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 2
9. Alonso 6
10. Webber 4
11. Nakajima 3
12. Bourdais 2

All timing unofficial

Post-qualifying press conference - Bahrain

Q: Congratulations, a fantastic day for you and quick too in Q2, third fastest without fuel on board, so a great day for you.

Robert Kubica: Yeah, I think after yesterday's good work in free practice two we have developed quite a lot. Qualifying went pretty well: Q1 and Q2 but Q3 I managed to do quite a good lap and got on pole position for the first time.

Q: I'm sure it was more than quite a good lap. Let's talk about that lap and also your emotions as you heard it was your first pole.

RK: Well, I started the lap pretty well, then in corner nine I locked the front wheels and unfortunately I flat-spotted the tyres, so it was not easy. I had a very big vibration and in the last three corners which are right-handers, it was very difficult but I managed not to make a mistake. The car was pulling to one side under braking but still it was enough for pole and I'm very happy.

Q: It's as if you now have to patent your Robert Kubica weight-loss diet. You lost six kilos before the season started, how much of a factor is that in your performance this year?

RK: I don't know. It's difficult to say but we have seen that with lighter drivers, if I was lighter, I would go a bit quicker, so I decided with my engineer to make a maximum effort to reduce weight from the car and from myself and I worked hard and this is the kind of result we can get from it. It was maximum effort, very hard for myself, but still I managed it.

Q: Felipe, on the front row of the grid, you've been sensationally quick all weekend, very very fast in Q2, it looks as if you lost a little bit of time towards the end of sector two on your final qualifying run.

Felipe Massa: Yeah, I definitely lost... I did incredible laps during the whole weekend and the car was just perfect all the time, and just in Q3 was the only time that I was behind cars all the time.

The first attempt, when I still set a good lap time, I was behind Nico the whole lap which was a shame because I managed to pull out a good gap and even braking for him to pass me, and then I did the whole lap behind him and it was already enough to maybe be close to pole, and the second try I was also held up by traffic.

Fernando made a small mistake and let me by but it wasn't a perfect lap. It's a shame but in a way I think we have a great car, we've shown great performance and I think we can be very strong tomorrow.

Q: Lewis, a spectacular accident yesterday, we all saw that, but a great recovery today to be third but I guess the Ferrari speed this morning and in Q2 was very impressive from your point of view.

Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, definitely, they seem to have outstanding pace at the moment, but going into qualifying I was quite happy with the balance that I had and I knew that we would be able to challenge at least for the front row. We're third, very very happy with that. I think it was a reasonably decent lap.

For sure, as always, there's time to gain and I think inevitably if it was a perfect lap, we probably could have had pole but I'll go back and I'll study it and look forward to the race but I think we have a good strategy and I think tomorrow will be quite interesting.

Q: Talk us through the effects of an accident like that. You said you're fine and probably there are no effects from your point of view, but what is the impact in terms of actual qualifying performance and indeed the race?

LH: For me, it makes absolutely no difference. I get back in the car and I go faster. I think today I actually went quicker through that corner than I did yesterday, the first lap I did. I think that's important to really knock down that barrier and bounce back. I never have problems with that. I've had plenty of experiences in my career.

Press Conference

Q: Robert, congratulations, it was interesting to see you being congratulated by all the other drivers when you were weighing in downstairs. What does it mean to you to be on pole for the first time?

RK: Well, of course, after missing the opportunity in Australia I'm very happy not to have to wait too long for another one and we've got it here. I think a very important job was done yesterday in free practice developing the set-up. Q1 and Q2 were so-so but Q3 runs were already good.

Already the first run in Q3 was very good but I made a mistake in the last corner and the second run was much better but I had a small flat spot in corner nine, braking into corner ten and there was quite a lot of vibration from the tyre, the car was pulling to one side, and I was not expecting to be on pole after this mistake but of course I'm very happy.

Q: How much have you expected this kind of performance this year?

RK: We were all expecting to be strong. Looking at the numbers in the wind tunnel during the winter and simulations of the new car, I was expecting it to be a very strong car but at the beginning of the winter testing we faced some problems but the guys worked very hard and I think this is an example of never giving up, even if there are problems, pushing as hard as possible and we managed to be ready in Australia with what was nearly the full potential of the car but of course there is still work to do. We will try to do our best and improve the car even more.

Q: Last year's pole man, Felipe Massa, sitting alongside. You've been so quick all weekend, you were fastest this morning by over 0.7s, were you a bit disappointed to be second on the grid?

FM: Well, in a way I'm happy with second, looking at how we look in the race, but for sure, I think even in Q3, looking at what we did in Q2, it was really possible to be in front. I was a little bit unlucky with traffic in Q3, I was always behind cars and I couldn't do very clean laps but it's good to be second, good to start in the front and I think we can be very strong tomorrow as we have shown all weekend.

Q: What was the tyre choice like? It was interesting in qualifying that most drivers seemed to go out on mediums and then on softs at the end?

FM: Well, for sure soft in qualifying is always the best and for the race we need to analyse tonight the best situation, how the track is going to be, how the grid is going to be, even taking the data from today but I don't think we have a lot of problems with the tyres here. Both seem pretty reasonable.

Q: Lewis, disappointed to be third after second last year?

LH: No, I wouldn't say it's disappointing but for sure we would prefer to be on pole, but I still think we... The team have done a great job to recover from the accident I had yesterday, the team stayed up all night, so a big thank you to them for preparing the car. It was great today. As Robert was saying, we all knew we were going to be very close this weekend.

Felipe was extremely quick, but we knew that we would be competing for a top three place for sure and I think these guys both did a great job. I was quite happy with my lap but there are always improvements that you can make but we're in a good position for the start tomorrow, so I am quite happy.

Q: Both of the Finns including your team-mate behind you, of course.

LH: Yes. What can I say really? It's good for me and I just need to make sure we get off to a good start tomorrow and we can try and pace ourselves from there.

Questions from the Floor

Q: (Panos Seitanidis - Drive Magazine) Question for Robert. First of all, do you think there's going to be a big party back home in Poland, and secondly, do you think that BMW has the race pace to have the same position tomorrow?

RK: I think that after the second place in Malaysia there were high expectations in Poland and I'm confident about the race as well. Yesterday we did some long runs and they went pretty OK and I think Ferrari was clearly the fastest but in the race anything can happen and we will now try to analyse the data and prepare for tomorrow's race as much as possible.

Q: (Michael Schmidt - Auto Motor und Sport) Felipe, you had been the fastest all the time in the first sector but it seemed that you lost time in Q3 in the second sector in both outings. Any problem there?

FM: No, no problem. I think on the first attempt I was pretty slow in the second and third sector because I was behind Rosberg during the whole lap, and on the last attempt I passed Fernando just before turn nine, but I don't think he held me up. I don't think there was any problem.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi - Tuttosport) Robert, you undertook a slimming programme before the start of the season. Why did you decide to go on a diet and what kind of diet did you do?

LH: Stop having KFC and everything.

RK: We decided for some technical reasons to reduce the weight as much as possible and I tried to do my best in February and March and it was not easy because in the end, now I think I am weighing much less than normal, even for the average of 1.85m driver but still, it produces quite a good gain in the performance and I think this was in some way also the key to be so strong at the beginning of the season.

Q: (Jerome Bourret - L'Equipe) Question for all of you: is it a big advantage to start on the clean side of the track here?

RK: This year it's more difficult to get a perfect start because without all the electronic systems there is more benefit to do everything perfectly than from side to side. Even if you are on the clean side, if something goes wrong, you lose much more than someone who is on the dirty side and makes a good start.

FM: Well, it depends what sort of start you can make. For sure, if I need to chose, I always prefer the clean side but if you look at last year, I think you can see a good start as well. He (Lewis) almost passed me in turn one but I think you can also be strong on the dirty side, so let's wait and see tomorrow.

LH: For me I think last year starting second I got a slightly worse start than Felipe but I think it's going to be quite equal but I'm happy with being on the clean side, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Maiden F1 pole for Kubica, BMW in Bahrain

Robert Kubica took his and BMW Sauber's first Formula One pole position with a stunning lap in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Pole beat favourite Felipe Massa (Ferrari), who had dominated Friday practice, by 0.027 seconds.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen will share the second row.

Massa held provisional pole after the first flying laps of Q3, but only by 0.011 seconds over Kubica.

Hamilton then briefly beat both when he lapped in 1:33.292 on his second run, but the McLaren driver did not stay on top for long, as Kubica responded with a 1:33.096.

Although Massa's second lap was sufficient to reclaim the front row position from Hamilton, his time of 1:33.123 was not enough to beat the BMW driver to pole.

World champion Raikkonen could only manage fourth, three tenths of a second slower than teammate Massa. Heikki Kovalainen completed the top five in the second McLaren.

Kubica's teammate Nick Heidfeld was 0.7 seconds slower than the pole-sitter in sixth place for BMW.

Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Nico Rosberg (Williams) will share the fourth row, Trulli having been second fastest in the first qualifying segment.

Jenson Button got Honda into the top ten for the first time this season, edging up to 10th in the final moments of Q2 and then securing ninth place, just ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso. Button's teammate Rubens Barrichello will start 12th.

Red Bull Racing had a disappointing session. While Mark Webber missed out on a top ten spot by 0.009 seconds and will start 11th, while teammate David Coulthard blamed a straightforward lack of speed for his Q1 elimination after ending up 17th on the grid. He was 0.018 seconds away from making it through to Q2.

Timo Glock (Toyota), Nelson Piquet (Renault) and Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) could not match their respective teammates Trulli, Alonso and Rosberg, and were knocked out in Q2.

While Glock briefly made it up to ninth before other drivers' improvements pushed him back to 13th, Piquet and Nakajima's best efforts were only good enough for 14th and 16th.

Sebastien Bourdais out-qualified Toro Rosso teammate Sebastian Vettel for the first time and also made his first Q2 appearance. The Frenchman will start 15th, with Vettel only managing 19th.

Force India again failed to make it beyond Q1. Giancarlo Fisichella moved up to 18th with a last-gasp effort after abandoning his last flying lap following an error, while teammate Adrian Sutil was 20th.

The Super Aguris will fill the back row, with Anthony Davidson ahead of Takuma Sato for the first time this season.

The Japanese driver caused a brief red flag after spinning on the exit of the final corner, damaging his car's rear wing and suspension on the pit entry barrier.

Pos  Driver       Team                 Q1        Q2        Q3       Laps
1. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:32.893 1:31.745 1:33.096 12
2. Massa Ferrari 1:31.937 1:31.188 1:33.123 12
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.750 1:31.922 1:33.292 13
4. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:32.652 1:31.933 1:33.418 12
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.057 1:31.718 1:33.488 12
6. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:33.137 1:31.909 1:33.737 15
7. Trulli Toyota 1:32.493 1:32.159 1:33.994 19
8. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:32.903 1:32.185 1:34.015 22
9. Button Honda 1:32.793 1:32.362 1:35.057 17
10. Alonso Renault 1:32.947 1:32.345 1:35.115 17
11. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:33.194 1:32.371 12
12. Barrichello Honda 1:32.944 1:32.508 12
13. Glock Toyota 1:32.800 1:32.528 15
14. Piquet Renault 1:32.975 1:32.790 15
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.415 1:32.915 15
16. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:33.386 1:32.943 15
17. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:33.433 7
18. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:33.501 5
19. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.562 9
20. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:33.845 6
21. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1:34.140 9
22. Sato Super Aguri-Honda 1:35.725 5

Niko Rosberg fastest in final practice - Bahrain

Williams driver Nico Rosberg continued his team's promising Bahrain Grand Prix weekend by going fastest in the final free practice session at Sakhir.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was second, having been fastest until teams switched to soft tyre runs and qualifying simulations in the closing minutes.

As has been their habit in final practice so far in 2008, Ferrari and McLaren appeared to focus on heavier fuel loads in preparation for Q3.

Massa was the only member of the usual top four near the front, as teammate Kimi Raikkonen ended the session in ninth, with McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton in 10th and 18th respectively.

Ferrari sat out the first 37 minutes of the session - preferring to let their rivals clean away the dirt built up by the support races.

When Massa did emerge, he immediately showed his potential by leaping straight to the top of the timing screens with a 1:33.219 lap, beating early pace-setter Rosberg by 0.202 seconds.

Teammate Raikkonen made errors on both his first two flying laps, including a trip across the Turn 13 run-off area on his second lap. When he finally produced a clean lap at the third attempt, he was half a second slower than Massa.

After Hamilton damaged his McLaren's tub in his heavy practice accident on Friday afternoon, the team built up their spare chassis to use for the rest of the weekend.

Apart from a period when Hamilton held second place behind Rosberg, McLaren did not feature amongst the front-runners in the session.

Massa remained on top until the final minutes, when the wholesale switch to soft tyres saw a flurry of changes in the top ten. BMW's Robert Kubica was briefly fastest, but was pushed right back to seventh as others improved in the last minute.

Rosberg was first to usurp Kubica, lapping in 1:32.521. This was 0.205 seconds faster than Massa's final effort, with Mark Webber producing a similar late improvement to take third for Red Bull.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli, Webber's teammate David Coulthard and Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima completed the top six ahead of Kubica and Renault's Nelson Piquet.

The level of activity in the closing stages was such that the Hondas fell to 14th and 16th, having been third and fourth with three minutes remaining.

Times were also extremely close, with just 1.03 seconds covering the top 14 cars.

Pos  Driver        Team                     Time              Laps
1. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:32.521 17
2. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:32.726 + 0.205 10
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:32.742 + 0.221 16
4. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:32.901 + 0.380 18
5. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:32.918 + 0.397 14
6. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:33.020 + 0.499 16
7. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:33.024 + 0.503 18
8. Piquet Renault (B) 1:33.074 + 0.553 16
9. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:33.237 + 0.716 10
10. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:33.367 + 0.846 15
11. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:33.372 + 0.851 17
12. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:33.392 + 0.871 20
13. Alonso Renault (B) 1:33.445 + 0.924 13
14. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:33.551 + 1.030 18
15. Glock Toyota (B) 1:33.595 + 1.074 20
16. Button Honda (B) 1:33.600 + 1.079 17
17. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:33.651 + 1.130 14
18. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:33.659 + 1.138 14
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:33.857 + 1.336 18
20. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:34.074 + 1.553 16
21. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:34.591 + 2.070 18
22. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:34.952 + 2.431 16

Massa fastest as Hamilton crashes out

Ferrari continued to dominate Bahrain Grand Prix practice in the second session, with Felipe Massa again leading teammate Kimi Raikkonen in a one-two.

The Brazilian ended the afternoon almost one second quicker than Raikkonen, having lapped in 1:31.420 in the final seconds.

McLaren finished third and fourth, but Lewis Hamilton ended the afternoon in the barriers.

The Briton lost control of his car on the exit of Turn 7 and spun across the track, hitting the opposite barriers side-on and causing heavy damage to the right-hand side of the car. Hamilton was unharmed in the incident.

Raikkonen and Hamilton swapped the top spot between them in the early stages, before Massa took control with a 1:32.722 lap, 0.127 seconds quicker than Hamilton's previous best.

Bar a few minutes when Raikkonen edged ahead with his final run, Massa remained on top for the rest of the afternoon. He improved his time to 1:32.393 on soft tyres, which Raikkonen beat by 0.066 seconds with three minutes remaining.

But Massa responded in emphatic style, going fastest by 0.907 seconds with his last lap of the day.

Heikki Kovalainen had languished near the foot of the top ten in the first half of the session, then improved to third later on. He was 0.095 seconds quicker then teammate Hamilton even before the latter's accident.

BMW's Robert Kubica finished the session in fifth place, 1.4 seconds off the pace but only 0.5 seconds behind Raikkonen.

Williams continued their strong morning form with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima taking sixth and eighth respectively, split by Red Bull driver David Coulthard.

Sebastien Bourdais was as high as second for Toro Rosso early in the session. He was eventually pushed back to ninth, ahead of Renault's Nelson Piquet, who was two places ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso.

Pos  Driver        Team                     Time               Laps
1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:31.420 30
2. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:32.327 + 0.907 30
3. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:32.752 + 1.332 30
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:32.847 + 1.427 26
5. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:32.915 + 1.495 29
6. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:33.022 + 1.602 34
7. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:33.048 + 1.628 27
8. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:33.098 + 1.678 33
9. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:33.197 + 1.777 37
10. Piquet Renault (B) 1:33.247 + 1.827 37
11. Button Honda (B) 1:33.710 + 2.290 33
12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:33.755 + 2.335 26
13. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:33.782 + 2.362 34
14. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:33.822 + 2.402 38
15. Glock Toyota (B) 1:33.856 + 2.436 30
16. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:33.966 + 2.546 35
17. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:34.023 + 2.603 36
18. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:34.388 + 2.968 35
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:34.405 + 2.985 34
20. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:34.787 + 3.367 30
21. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:35.288 + 3.868 24
22. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:35.712 + 4.292 25

Massa quickest in practice 1 - Bahrain

Felipe Massa led teammate Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari one-two in the first free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Williams' Nico Rosberg took third with a late qualifying-style run, ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen.

The leading teams stayed in the pits for the first 35 minutes to allow others to clean the dusty track. Massa was the first major contender to set a time, and his 1:33.047 immediately outpaced early benchmark Jarno Trulli (Toyota) by half a second.

The Brazilian was swiftly beaten by Hamilton's 1:32.705, but both Ferraris stayed out and returned to the top later in their long runs. Massa regained first position with a 1:32.400, and although he was briefly usurped by teammate Raikkonen's 1:32.356, the Brazilian then produced a 1:32.233 to reclaim the top spot.

Raikkonen had to curtail his first run after sliding off the road at the final corner. The world champion took a detour across the very dusty run-off and had to pit to check for damage and for the accumulated dust to be cleaned out.

Unusually, the leading teams did not improve on their times on their subsequent outings, with Massa and Raikkonen staying first and second throughout the final 40 minutes.

The only change amongst the top five was Rosberg's late jump to third with a 1:32.415 lap. His teammate Kazuki Nakajima took sixth on the softer Bridgestones, behind Hamilton and Kovalainen.

Robert Kubica had been fifth for BMW for most of the morning, but was pushed back to seventh when the Williams duo vaulted up the order.

Trulli, Red Bull's David Coulthard and Renault driver Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.

Pos  Driver        Team                    Time               Laps
1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:32.233 20
2. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:32.350 + 0.117 15
3. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:32.415 + 0.182 23
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:32.705 + 0.472 21
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:32.868 + 0.635 20
6. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:33.121 + 0.888 24
7. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:33.333 + 1.100 16
8. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:33.539 + 1.306 27
9. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:33.788 + 1.555 20
10. Alonso Renault (B) 1:33.815 + 1.582 19
11. Glock Toyota (B) 1:33.929 + 1.696 28
12. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:33.950 + 1.717 20
13. Piquet Renault (B) 1:33.981 + 1.748 24
14. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:34.106 + 1.873 17
15. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:34.235 + 2.002 27
16. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:34.321 + 2.088 32
17. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:34.892 + 2.659 20
18. Button Honda (B) 1:34.915 + 2.682 16
19. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:35.174 + 2.941 12
20. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:35.429 + 3.196 22
21. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:36.145 + 3.912 6
22. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:36.536 + 4.303 6

Friday, March 28, 2008

FIA to tweak qualifying for Bahrain

The FIA is to revise the rules for qualifying in time for the Bahrain Grand Prix in a bid to ensure there is no repeat of the controversy that marred the session in Malaysia, has learned.

In Sepang, a quirk in the current regulations meant that several drivers were touring slowly back to the pits in a bid to conserve fuel while other drivers were on their final qualifying laps.

This led to dangerous scenes when Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso had to weave their way past much slower cars, and resulted in Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton being penalized for blocking their rivals.

With that scenario having prompted widespread calls for the qualifying rules to change, the FIA is to issue an imminent clarification to the teams imposing a maximum laptime for drivers in qualifying.

This will prevent drivers from going too slowly after they have finished their qualifying runs.

It is similar to the rule that is in place for drivers on their reconnaissance laps to the grid - which was prompted by fears of collisions between cars going slowly to conserve fuel and those going fast to evaluate their set-up.

An FIA spokesman confirmed that teams will be notified of the decision to impose a maximum time limit, which is likely to be 120 percent of a normal lap.

"The matter is under discussion and our clarification to the teams and drivers will be that cars returning to the pits having completed their flying lap or laps will be required to do so within a time that we will set," the spokesman told

"This could be approximately 120% of the 'normal' time as we do to prevent drivers going very slowly to the grid to save fuel."