Germany’s Nico Rosberg, who has yet to transform his practice pace into anything higher than sixth place in a race this season, put Williams on top of the time sheets at the Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday.
Rosberg, son of 1982 champion Keke, lapped the Sakhir circuit in a time of 1 minute, 33.339 seconds. The German has now been quickest in seven of the 11 practice sessions this year.
Renault’s double world champion Fernando Alonso was second fastest in the afternoon.
Current champion Lewis Hamilton had earlier shrugged off the troubles surrounding his McLaren team to clock the quickest time in the morning.
The Briton lapped in 1 minute, 33.647 seconds.
Only Rosberg, Alonso and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli went faster in the afternoon.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, winner of the last race in China, was fourth fastest in the second session ahead of Australian teammate Mark Webber and Brawn GP’s championship leader Jenson Button.
BMW-Sauber had filled second and third places on a hot and overcast morning, with Germany’s Nick Heidfeld ahead of Poland’s Robert Kubica.
The top three cars in that session were all equipped with the new KERS energy recovery system that offers drivers an extra boost of power at the push of a button, at a circuit where it is expected to be a real advantage.
Only Alonso of the afternoon’s top three had KERS on board.
Button, who won the first two races of the season and finished third in China, is seen as a favorite to return to the top of the podium with the Brawn likely to be more competitive in the hot conditions.
McLaren, who warned at the start of the season that their car was still some way off becoming a winner, have brought new developments to Bahrain in an effort to close the gap at the top.
“We have a few modifications for the floor, hopefully a little bit more down-force, but nothing dramatic,” said Kovalainen, whose teammate has been kept well away from the media since arriving in Bahrain. “There is nothing major at this race. I think the next big package should be in Spain.”
Meanwhile, McLaren have written to F1’s governing body to apologize for misleading stewards and accepting wrongdoing ahead of a hearing next week that could suspend the team from the championship.
“We are cooperating with the FIA. I have written to [International Automobile Federation President] Max [Mosley], but obviously before the 29th [Wednesday] I can’t say anything about it,” McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said. “It’s a letter to them. Certainly, there’s been no leak about it from us and I can’t comment on it.”
A source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters earlier that Whitmarsh had written to Mosley, the FIA and race officials to offer “an unreserved apology” for lying to stewards at last month’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The source said the team had also accepted they had breached the sporting regulations, an admission that effectively throws them at the mercy of the authorities.
McLaren have been charged with five counts of bringing the sport into disrepute and are due to appear before the FIA’s world motor sport council in Paris on Wednesday.