Rosberg Leads Mercedes Charge With Blistering Pace

BIC, Sakhir – Nico Rosberg topped the Formula One Practice timesheets today as the 2015 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix got underway at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.

Rosberg powered his Mercedes to the fastest time overall during the day’s second hour-and-a-half session held under BIC’s state-of-the-art floodlights. The German’s best lap was 1min 34.647secs.

Kimi Raikkonen had earlier put Ferrari in first place during the first practice held in the early afternoon. Raikkonen’s best lap was 1min 37.827secs.

The Formula One practices were the highlight of a spectacular Friday at BIC where fans enjoyed an action-packed day on the tarmac.

Rosberg managed to pip teammate Lewis Hamilton by a mere 0.115s as the defending World champions showed that they are still the team to beat heading into the fourth Grand Prix of the 2015 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The Mercedes pair were more than a half-second ahead of the rest of the pack, with Raikkonen placing third in the overall times for the day. He was 0.527s off of Rosberg’s pace for his best of the evening, which saw track temperatures in the low 30s.

Sebastian Vettel followed in fourth to confirm Ferrari’s strength in the desert with a best lap 0.630s from first place.

Valtteri Bottas (+0.633s) of Williams was ranked fifth for the day, Daniel Ricciardo (+0.802s) of Red Bull Racing sixth, Pastor Maldonado (+0.827s) of Lotus was seventh and Felipe Nasr (+1.146s) of Sauber rounded out the top eight.

Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull was ninth, Felipe Massa of Williams 10th, Marcus Ericsson for Sauber was 11th and Fernando Alonso for McLaren 12th.

Rounding out the bottom eight were Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, Force India’s Sergio Perez, Manor’s Will Stevens, McLaren’s Jenson Button and Manor’s Roberto Merhi.

Vettel and Perez had a collision towards the end of the second practice as Vettel was leaving the pitlane and heading towards Turn One.

In the early afternoon practice, held with track temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius, Raikkonen topped the timesheet with a fastest lap of 1min 37.827secs.

Vettel followed 0.202s behind, while Bottas put Williams in third +0.536s off the pace.

Sainz Jr (+0.620S) was fourth from the top, followed by Daniel Ricciardo (+0.628s) of Red Bull in fifth and Verstappen (+0.677s) in sixth.

Alonso and Nasr completed the top eight, while Kvyat and Massa rounded out the fastest 10.

Ranked in the lower half of the classification were Perez, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, test driver Joylon Palmer sitting in for Grosjean, Rosberg, Hamilton, Ericsson, Stevens and Merhi.

Button’s car switched off in Turn One just as he had come out for the session and was the only driver of the field of 20 not to set a time.

The weekend’s Third Practice in Formula One takes place Saturday starting at 3pm and ending an hour later. That will then set the stage for Qualifying, scheduled for a 6pm start.

VANDOORNE CAPTURES GP2 POLE WHILE SCHMID LEADS PORSCHE GT3 CUP PRACTICE

Stoffel Vandoorne and Clemens Schmid were the stars of their respective championships today being held in support of Formula One at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Vandoorne clinched pole position for Saturday’s Feature Race in the GP2 Series which is holding its opening round of the 2015 season at BIC.

Schmid, on the other hand, set the pace during Practice to keep his title bid on track as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East kicked off its sixth and final round of the season.

Vandoorne clinched pole with a best lap of 1min 39.237secs in his ART Grand Prix challenger.

Teammate N Matsushita was not far behind clocking a fastest time just 0.308s back, while Alex Lynn of defending champions DAMS was ranked third 0.362s off the pace.

Each of the top 14 drivers in the field of 24 were less than a second from Vandoorne’s best in qualifying.

During the GP2 practice held earlier in the day, Jordan King led the times with a fastest lap of 1min 42.441secs.

Meanwhile, in the Porsche GT3 Cup, championship leader Schmid set the practice pace with a best lap of 2min 05.369secs.

Zaid Ashkanani tried hard to keep pace but ended the day 0.701s. Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum was third 0.810s back.

Team Bahrain’s Raed Raffii ranked seventh 1.469s

The one-make Porsche series holds its Qualifying session at 11.55am Saturday. That will set the grid for the first of the weekend’s two 10-lap races at 4.30pm.

ARABIC CONCERTS DRAW IN A MASSIVE CROWD

A massive crowd of Arab music fans attended the weekend’s first night of major concerts this evening.

Taking to the stage for a full programme of top Arabic tunes were —.

The BIC vending area was absolutely jam-packed and the crowd continued to dance and cheer.

The party off the track continues Saturday with the headlining concert of this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, featuring global hit-maker and hip-hop superstar Pitbull.

Pitbull, known popularly as Mr. Worldwide, will be entertaining race-goers from 7.30pm.

All those with tickets to the race weekend will be able to attend.

DRIVERS GIVE PUBLIC AN INSIGHT INTO FORMULA ONE IN FAN FORUM

A huge crowd of fans were treated to a Formula One Drivers’ Fan Forum this afternoon.

The event featured top stars Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and former World champion Niki Lauda also took to the stage and took part in the forum.

They all shared in their experiences in the motorsport’s top flight.

Also taking place today was a Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk, where many were able to see their favourite Formula One teams hard at work preparing their racing machinery in their respective garages.

Another two Paddock Club Pit Lane Walks are scheduled for Saturday, the first at 11.30amfollowed by another at 4.15pm.

MEET YOUR FAVOURITE F1 DRIVERS IN SATURDAY AUTOGRAPH SESSION

BIC is inviting the public to make the most of tahe Formula One Drivers’ autograph session scheduled to take place Saturday (Editor’s note: April 18) from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

It will be held next to the Main Stage along BIC’s Formula One Village vending area.

All of the top flight’s star talents will be there, including defending World champion Lewis Hamilton and former champions Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Also set to meet their adoring supporters will be Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Nasr, Marcus Ericsson, Daniil Kvyat, Pastor Maldonado, Carlos Sainz Jr., Max Verstappen, Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens.

The autograph session will be the perfect opportunity for fans to meet motorsport’s globally renowned stars, take pictures with them and have Formula One memorabilia signed.

VALUABLE PRIZES UP FOR GRABS IN ’10 EVERY 10’ RAFFLE

Race-goers seated on the Main Grandstand will have a chance to win one of 260 fantastic prizes in BIC’s “10 Every 10” raffle taking place during Saturday’s Formula One qualifying andSunday’s night race.

The raffle on Saturday will run from the start of qualifying at 6pm until the end of the session one hour later. On Sunday, it will begin at 4.45pm, continue through the start of the Grand Prix at 6pm and conclude at the end of the race.

A total of 260 valuable prizes will be up for the taking including brand new, top-of-the-line electronic products such as the Apple iPhone 6, Sony M2 Aqua, Sony Xperia T3, Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy E5, Samsung Galaxy A5, Fit Bit Scale and Charge, LG G3, HTC Desire 820, HTC Re Camera, Huawei Mate 7, Samsung A7, HTC Desire i, iPad Mini 1 32GB, Go Pro Hero 4 Black, HTC 1 M8 Mini.

The raffle is available only for fans who are seated along BIC’s sold out Main Grandstand. Winners will be identified by their seat numbers; therefore, make sure you are in your seat in order to claim be eligible for a prize.

ALL ARE INVITED FOR THE WEEKEND’S ENJOYMENT AT THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

Tickets for the final two days of the Grand Prix are selling out fast and those who have still to purchase theirs may do so at the Ticket Sales Centre located at the BIC tents next to Sakhir Petrol Station on the way to the circuit.