After experimenting with aggressive set-up solutions in the second practice for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Ferrari have decided to revert to the more conventional direction for the rest of the weekend.
Although the Outer Loop version of the Bahrain International Circuit was expected to highlight Ferrari’s current technical weaknesses with its SF1000, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel actually delivered a pretty impressive performance in the opening practice session. The four-time world champion and the two-time race winner ended eighth and tenth fastest respectively as drivers started to get acquainted with the tricky Outer Loop Circuit.
However, the the evening action was a difficult session for the Scuderia. Vettel spun twice, damaging both sets of tyres and subsequently struggled for grip. His Monégasque team mate ran wide at Turn 8 early in the session with the incident damaging the driveshaft of his SF1000.
Vettel said that Ferrari was experimenting with some changes to the set-up of the SF1000 which ultimately turned out to be a mistake.
"We have had a mixed day: the first session was ok, the second was horrible. We tried some setting changes on the car, but the result was a very aggressive car, which is not what we needed. I hope tomorrow we can close the gap and get back on the right track.
"This track configuration is maybe a bit too short, almost over before it begins, but it’s ok. Turn 4 is more or less as it was last week, a bit faster because it opens up, then it is bumpy between turn 7 and 8 where the kerbs are very aggressive. This part is quite tricky but it’s not bad.
"With 20 cars on track, Q1 will be very tight especially because of the traffic: we have to go very slowly on the cool-down laps to bring the tyre temperatures down and this complicates things. I hope all the drivers will manage to get a clean lap without being impeded, or having too much trouble with traffic. It will be very tight and a few hundredths will make the difference,” said Vettel.
Despite missing the entire second session, Leclerc remained hopeful that his car is in a better shape this weekend than a week ago when Formula One raced on the normal Grand Prix Circuit.
"It was better than expected today,” added the Monégasque. „Things were going well until the technical problem at the very beginning of FP2, so hopefully it will be a good day tomorrow. I enjoyed the track with very few corners as it reminds me of the karting days. It’s a nice track and it should be a fun race. With these long straights, whoever is behind will have a big advantage.
"Finding a gap tomorrow in qualifying will be my main concern. Especially in Q1 and Q2, which could be messy, I think. The car felt good at the beginning of FP2 so I feel confident we are in a good place, but we still need to see the lap times to confirm this."