With the air temperature at nearly 40 degrees Celsius, and a track temperature at nearly 50 degrees Celsius, the first free practice session at Bahrain was filled with complaints of no grip.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel managed to secure the fastest time around the track on a set of soft tyres, displaying a new floor on his car as part of the Scuderia’s pack of new aero upgrades.
Behind Vettel, finished the two Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Initially, all the drivers went out on the medium compound tyre, but were soon complaining of no grip, wether that was to do with the searing temperature or the tyre itself. This problem was emphasised by the lap times, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton’s initial fastest time was a 1:36.708, seconds of 2016’s best time.
The first big event of the session came from Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, as he stopped his car at the side of the track, due to smoke pouring out from the rear of his car, usually a sign of engine problems.
“You need to box,” came the urgent-sounding message from the pitwall.
Raikkonen’s dashboard also went out, which would be an indication of an electrical issue as well. The car was soon returned for the pits. It was stripped down, as it soon began to look like the problem with the Finn’s car would not be a quick fix.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also stopped by Turn 10, following a suspected DRS-related fluid loss on the Belgian’s car, as it was returned to the pits for repairing.
To top it off, Williams’ Felipe Massa also suffered problems, reporting he had “lost the brakes completely”, due to a suspected brake-by-wire issue. The Brazilian coasted back to the pit lane, as his teammate Lance Stroll was also told to abort his lap.
Massa suffered from a big spin moments before, which was probably due to his brake issue also.
As the bright lights shone down on the track, illuminating it against the growing darkness around, drivers seemed to be much more comfortable running this afternoon, as the cooler temperatures played to their advantage.
As in FP1, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time, followed by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.
The session began with the announcement that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen’s problems in FP1 stemmed from an overheating turbocharger, which was resurrected in time for FP2.
The car McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, who also had problems in FP1, was also having its troubles sorted, as the mechanics were changing the power unit.
Like many others, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was complaining that his car was rear limited. However, Bahrain, unlike Melbourne or Shanghai, is a rear limited circuit, so this is to be expected.
The initial fastest time on the soft tyre was set by Raikkonen, a time of 1:32.227, before the Virtual Safety Car came out.
This was due to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who had stopped his car at the side of the track at Turn 11, with smoke coming out of his brakes and cockpit. He leapt out of the car quickly, probably due to the fact that the car was still live with KERS. The problem seemed to be a power-related engine issue.
Toro Rosso lated diagnosed the issue, however kept it a secret from the media, as they did not want to place unnecessary blame on either Renault (their engine supplier) or their team.
As the cars moved onto the supersoft tyre, Vettel complained of a “complete shutdown” of his car coming out of Turn 13, which he managed to coast back to the pitlane, as his car was then pushed to the Ferrari garage.
The problem was quickly identified and fixed, and the German was soon back out on track. The reason he was back out so quickly was due to the fact that he was able to get his car back to the pitlane himself.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also spent time in the garage, as he had ran over the t-wing which had earlier come off Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas’ car. This had damaged the floor of his car, however he did manage to come back out with 14 minutes to go.
Soon after his car was fixed, Vandoorne suffered another issue, and was out of the rest of the session, meaning he has had limited running in Bahrain.