An update from Free Practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix as the Bulls get up and running in the desert for Round Two of the Formula One season.

Since switching to a night race, the Bahrain Grand Prix has been a lively and well-attended event – but one on a much more human scale that the juggernaut of Australia. The circuit puts on a non-stop stream of bands and circus acts in the main concourse, where fans are encouraged to hang out between the sessions, often reclined on cushions. It is slightly disconcerting to swipe in alongside jugglers, stilt walkers and a band of Scottish pipers in tartan – but hey, F1… 

It hasn’t been a particularly kind circuit to us, with last year’s double DNF the latest in a string of indignities suffered in the Kingdom. There have been highlights though: mostly down to Sebastian Vettel, who took pole in 2010 and 2012, and victories in 2012 and 2013. He also had our only other podium in Sakhir, finishing second in 2009. It’s also been a eye-catching race for our future stars. Pierre Gasly made everyone sit up and take notice qualifying fifth for Toro Rosso last season – before going on to finish a brilliant fourth.

In Friday's first Free Practice One session, the Bulls used the track time to try out a number of different set ups for the RB15. Max would eventually take P5 with a 1:31.673 his best time from his 21 laps on track, with teammate Pierre just behind in P6 with a 1:31.815 from 17 laps the mark of his FP1. Topping the timesheet was Charles Leclerc who took P1 with a 1:30.354.

The sun went down over the Sakhir International Circuit as Free Practice Two got underway and with this session being the only practice session of the weekend that would mimic the conditions of qualifying and the race the Bulls quickly took to the track to maximise track time. 

Free Practice Two would see Max finish in P6 with a 1:29.725 from his 34 laps for the session, while Pierre took P12 with a 1:30.429 from his 31 laps. Topping the timesheets was Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari with a 1:28.846. 

Following on from Friday's sessions, Max said:
“Today was ok but it could have been better. On the medium tyre we look pretty competitive and I should have been fastest on my first short run but I had a little issue at the last corner which lost me two or three tenths. On the softest tyre I just didn’t have enough grip, so we need to look into that and extract more out of it. On the longer runs we also looked competitive on the medium tyre which should be the most dominant tyre for the race. We still have a bit of set-up work to do, especially as we will probably only get one timed lap on the tyres in qualifying. It also looks like the issues Ferrari had in Melbourne have been resolved, they look fastest at the moment so we need to work to close that gap.”
Summarising his day, Pierre added:
I think the performance was really good in FP1 and at the start of FP2. The balance was not ideal, but that’s normal, especially as it was very hot this morning when we had the first session. This afternoon in FP2 we were fast with the medium tyres but then with the softs we were lacking some pace. I couldn’t really push on the first laps, so I had to do it on the third, which is not ideal. I think overall the car is good, we’re just missing a bit of pace with this set-up and need to improve our understanding of the soft tyres. I feel confident with the car, for sure it’s a different track than Melbourne so we need to optimise everything but I’m confident we can get it right tomorrow.”