Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes dominate Friday at the Bahrain GP

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Lewis Hamilton led both Friday practice sessions ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix as Mercedes' domination continued.

The 2008 world champion led with a 1:34.325 ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg as the two Silver Arrows held a clear three-quarters of a second advantage over the rest of the field over a single lap.

Fernando Alonso was 'best of the rest' for Ferrari ahead of Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull with Felipe Massa and Jenson Button making it five different teams in the top six.

What was clear from Friday was the supposed power advantage Mercedes teams have is not enough to overcome those with better aerodynamics as Ferrari and Red Bull both remained in a close battle for second behind the works Mercedes team.

Also key this weekend will be fuel usage as the long straights allied to the large number of heaving braking and acceleration zones around the Sakhir Circuit make it the hardest of the year on fuel consumption.

The opening session, which was undertaken in the heat of the day, was not representative in terms of the conditions teams and drivers will have to deal with as the Bahrain GP becomes a night race for the first time.

Also the strength of the wind allied to the blown dust coming off the surrounding desert made for tricky conditions with drivers struggling under braking into turn one and also having to ease off through the high speed turn 12 as the wind blew the cars around.

Because of the amount of testing done pre-season and for the reasons mentioned above Mercedes and several teams limited their running in the opening session to an early run, ensuring everything on the car was correctly installed, and a run towards the end as the track began to rubber in.

Those who had struggled in the pre-season tests however were keen to get the usual set-up work done in the afternoon session and that showed as the Renault-powered teams completed the most laps.

Giedo van der Garde made his first official outing of 2014 for Sauber as did Felipe Nasr for Williams both of whom were three and five tenths respectively slower than their sister car's driven by a regular driver.

A positive debut however for Robin Frijns at Caterham as the Dutchman completed a session-high of 35 laps and beat Marcus Ericsson by three tenths of a second.

Into the first evening session and as the sun set and the lights brightened up the Sakhir Circuit more clues of what is set to be a fascinating weekend were unearthed.

It was the same story at the front with Mercedes well clear of the rest as the soft or option tyres were used for the first time, however, the battle behind was fierce.

A full second covered Fernando Alonso in third to his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in 14th as the front end of the midfield merged with those trying to catch Mercedes.

The only teams not involved in that battle were Lotus and Sauber who face a strong challenge from Marussia and Caterham behind.

Excluding the nine-tenth gap between Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson at the back, from Adrian Sutil in 15th to the Japanese driver in 21st 2.3 seconds covered the seven drivers, the closest we have seen the slower teams be in quite some time.

Also noticeable over a single lap was the huge delta time between the two compounds brought to Bahrain this weekend.

In a change from last year, Pirelli have brought the soft and medium compounds compared to the medium and hard in 2013, the softer rubber is making a huge difference offering over two seconds in performance per lap more than the white-striped mediums.

This was also reflected in the race simulations the teams complete in the final half of the second session.

As expected Mercedes had the edge though not the margin they had shown earlier, while the battle behind remains as close over a long run as it does a short stint with Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India, Williams, McLaren and Toro Rosso all battling.

Degradation of the softs is reasonable but with the huge difference in performance most believe a three-stop strategy will be used as teams keep the usage on the medium compound to a minimum, some, likely Force India, may opt for a two-stop race.

A very intriguing Friday which saw the challenge of Sakhir return thanks to the lower downforce with many drivers making mistakes. Though it looks a two-horse race at the front, the battle between the two Mercedes is also entertaining because of the different styles of Hamilton and Rosberg.

Behind the action is so tight with the field so close but that may be slightly detrimental if the cars run nose-to-tail and therefore negate the impact of DRS. Fuel and tyres will also play a key role but there is plenty to look forward to heading into Saturday's qualifying.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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