Nico Rosberg was fastest in the second practice at the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday, as safety concerns over anti-government protests prompted Force India to skip the session.
Rosberg, who won the Chinese Grand Prix last week for his first Formula One victory, clocked 1 minute, 32.816 seconds in his Mercedes around the 5.4km Bahrain International Circuit. That was 0.446 seconds quicker than Red Bull’s Mark Webber and 0.709 seconds better than two-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest in first practice, settled for fourth.
Ferrari improved on a dismal first session, but Fernando Alonso was still eighth and Felipe Massa 12th.
With tight security beyond the metal fences of the paddock and few spectators in the stands, drivers got down to business on a circuit whose layout has been shortened since 2010, when fans witnessed a boring race with little overtaking.
Two of Force India’s staff, a data engineer and a radio contractor, went home to Britain on Thursday after they were caught in a Molotov cocktail incident that involved four Force India members as they were returning to their hotel from the circuit the day before. The Bahrain International Circuit issued a statement on Thursday referring to “an isolated incident involving a handful of illegal protesters acting violently towards police.”
“During this incident a Molotov Cocktail landed in the vicinity of their vehicle. After approximately two minutes, the route was cleared and the vehicle carried on its journey,” the statement added.
In first practice, Hamilton, the 2008 champion who is leading the standings after three successive third places, lapped with a best time of 1 minute, 33.572 seconds.
Vettel was second on the timing screens, 0.305 slower, with Force India’s British driver Paul di Resta third.
Neither Hamilton, who started the first two races on pole position, nor Vettel have won a race yet this season with three different winners in the opening rounds.
Rosberg, of Germany, was fourth fastest in the first practice with McLaren’s Jenson Button fifth.
Spaniard Alonso and Brazilian Massa were 13th and 15th respectively.