All set for Bahrain GP

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All set for Bahrain GP

The early stages of the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix get underway at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) here on Friday, with two practice sessions leading off this weekend’s race action.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Fri 20 Apr 2012, 12:17 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:19 AM

Drivers’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton will be looking to put an initial marker down as he attempts to build upon his slender, two-point lead over his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.

Fellow Brit Button — unlike Hamilton — has won over these bends and straights before having tasted success at this track back in 2009, but the bigger threat to the entire field may well come from the prancing horse of the Ferraris.

The Maranello-based outfit have crossed the chequered flag first in three of the last four editions since 2007, with Fernando Alonso the defending champion — as such — from his triumph two years ago.

Brazilian racer Felipe Massa claimed back-to-back titles for Ferrari between 2007 and 2008 after Alonso had also done so himself, albeit in a Renault, over 2005 and 2006.

Having two competitors in the same paddock who have prevailed in five of the previous six Bahrain Grands Prix will certainly give Ferrari confidence and a considerable edge going into proceedings.

Their remarkable record at BIC is made even more impressive by the fact legendary German racer Michael Schumacher, now at Mercedes, won for them in the inaugural encounter in 2004.

Alonso, with 37 points, is only six and eight points off of Button and Hamilton respectively, while Red Bull’s Mark Webber is a single point away from the two-time Spanish world champion in fourth.

Webber currently leads his team-mate, the 2010 and 2011 world champion Sebastian Vettel, by eight points after a sluggish start to the season by a team who utterly dominated from the get-go last year.

With only three races gone thus far, there’s hardly a desperate need to panic all too prematurely at this early stage as the gap to the summit is easily recoverable points-wise.

Nonetheless, the sheer distance in quality from the other cars on the grid is no longer quite so apparent these days, which will be a clear concern to Red Bull chief Christian Horner.

Last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix winner, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg (in sixth on 25 points), shall be aiming to follow up that first-ever race victory with a swift second, while Sauber’s Sergio Perez (seventh, 22), of Mexico, and Lotus’ Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen (eighth, 16) round off the top eight positions.

Friday’s two practice sessions are between 11am and 12:30pm and 3pm and 4:30pm, with the third and final one scheduled for Saturday from 12noon and 1pm.

The one hour of qualifying then takes place at 3pm that same day prior to Sunday’s 4pm race.

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