As Mercedes dominated on track off track discussion turned to the issues surrounding an open letter written by the drivers after the last race in Australia, and the continuation of the controversial qualifying system that proved so unsuccessful in Australia.
The drivers letter included statements that alluded to a lack of faith in the governing body of the sport, a desire for more involvement in rule changes and decisions, and the belief that sport is going in the wrong direction by failing to attract the younger generation.
After his huge crash in Australia it was declared on Thursday that Fernando Alonso was unfit to drive after fractures to his ribs sustained in the impact, and would be replaced for the race weekend by Mclaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne.
Despite knowledge of the circuit, including a win in GP2, Vandoorne made a few mistakes in both practice sessions with a costly mistake in the first sector of his flying lap in P2 meaning he could do no better than 11th whilst teammate Button secured 3rd with a time 0.7 second faster.
Ferrari finished P1 1.9 seconds off from Rosberg. Ferrari spent most of the session on medium tyres trying to acquire more information after struggling on the compound in Australia.
Timesheet after P1
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:32.294
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:32.799
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:34.128
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:34.461
- Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:34.541
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:34.601
- Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:34.793
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:34.860
- Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:35.000
- Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:35.006
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:35.073
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:35.174
- Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:35.309
- Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:35.440
- Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:35.490
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:35.728
- Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:36.371
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:36.392
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:36.719
- Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:36.939
- Alfonso Celis, Force India, 1:37.287
- Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:37.714
As the sun came down in the desert the second practice session got underway with data collected in the night considered more representative for the race by the teams.
Rosberg continued his run of form outpacing his teammate Lewis Hamilton, yet again, by over two tenths of a second.
While Mercedes continued to dominate, Ferrari struggled on the medium tyres, with Vettel stopping on track with only fifteen minutes left of the session after a wheel Knut on the rear left became loose. Reliability has been the issue that most in the paddock consider to be the thorn in the side of Ferrari, hindering the team from sustaining a decent assault upon Mercedes.
Mclaren shocked when Jenson button popped up to third in the timing sheets after switching to the super-soft tyres. It is unclear if this is genuine improvement in pace or whether button was running incredibly low fuel. However, since the beginning of the season Mclaren have appeared to have improved, with a decent amount of pace in Australia and Button stated that the car felt well balanced and the improvement was “positive”.
Meanwhile new team Haas encountered reliability issues with a front right hand wing failure on Grosjean car after he ran wide on the rubble strips at Turn 13. The substantial amount of debris was left on the circuit caused a virtual safety car for the last few minutes of the session. In Australia the Haas team also sustained a front wing failure indicating that this may be an area of weakness for the new team.
Verstappen impressed, again, in fourth, behind the ever dominant Mercedes and Jenson’s Buttons Mclaren.
Going into Qualifying tomorrow the main question seems will Lewis Hamilton be able to return to form and outpace his teammate for pole?
Timesheets at end of P2
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:31.001
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:31.242
- Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:32.281
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:32.406
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:32.452
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:32.650
- Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:32.703
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:32.792
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:32.870
- Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:32.873
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:32.999
- Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:33.129
- Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:33.177
- Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:33.384
- Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:33.406
- Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:33.447
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:33.570
- Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:33.640
- Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:33.953
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:34.224
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:34.477
- Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:34.562