LIVE COMMENTARY: 2010 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX - FRIDAY PRACTICE 1
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As it happened: Friday Practice 1
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
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Hello everyone and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live as we begin perhaps the most intriguing Formula One story in years.
The 60th anniversary world championship season is set to be a cracker with the largest field of teams for 15 years, all striving through 57 practice sessions, 19 qualifying battles and of course the 19 races themselves in a fight to earn points and become world champions.
The Bahrain International Circuit in the Sakhir desert has been extended for this year, posing the drivers and teams a fresh challenge to kick off the campaign.
We're racing in the desert with wall-to-wall sunshine and fierce heat for the opening round - the 2010 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
Interest in the 2010 campaign reached unprecedented levels during February's pre-season testing and now, finally, it is time to get this eagerly-anticipated season underway.
The return of Michael Schuamcher, Fernando Alonso's move to Ferrari and the tantalising prospect of the last two world champions – Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – going head-to-head as team-mates are all incredible storylines for the year ahead.
But it's not just the four world champions making waves. The arrival of Virgin Racing (a collaboration between Manor, Wirth Research and Richard Branson's group), the Malaysian-backed revival of the legendary Lotus team, and Spanish squad Hispania means a host of fresh faces.
The bigger grid means more opportunities for rookie drivers than in many years. Nico Hulkenberg, Vitaly Petrov, Karun Chandhok, Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi all step up from GP2 and Kamui Kobayashi also gets a full season deal after two spectacular outings late last year.
AUTOSPORT's season guide
to get up to speed on all the changes for 2010.
Today, we will guide you through the opening practice sessions with minute-by-minute commentary as the teams and drivers get used to the new layout in Bahrain and begin to set-up their new cars for the weekend.
First practice will begin shortly, with commentary ending 15 minutes after the session has concluded.
Later, at 10:45 GMT, we will return for live coverage of the second practice session. AUTOSPORT Live will end the day with a weekend weather forecast, on the Bahrain Grand Prix weather page.
An entire field of new machinery has raised plenty of interest in the winter's technical developments, but one radical challenger is the particular focus of attention in Bahrain - McLaren's MP4-25.
Yesterday it became clear that the car features an ingenious air duct through the cockpit, which the driver can use his body to control and help stall the rear wing, reducing drag to give a potentially significant straight-line speed advantage.
This was introduced as part of a major update for the final weekend of pre-season testing in Barcelona, which ended with an impressive race simulation by Lewis Hamilton on Sunday afternoon.
With McLaren now past the potential hurdle of scrutineering, all eyes will be on Hamilton, and his world champion team-mate Jenson Button, as everyone looks to see if a march has been stolen by the Woking-based team.
Whitmarsh: Rivals will copy vent system
There are vast array of talking points going into the 2010 season and - as ever - AUTOSPORT forum members are invited to join the fun throughout the weekend, offering thoughts and opinions as the event unfolds.
Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you would like to join the debate.
There are five minutes to go until the talking stops and the questions of the winter can finally start to be answered.
Conditions are, as expected, hot and sunny in Bahrain. The track temperature is 35 Celsius and ambient 28 degrees.
World champion Jenson Button is strapped in to his McLaren as he prepares to begin his title defence.
Lucas di Grassi stands ready as final preparations continue on his Virgin Racing machine.
The practice session is underway.
Jarno Trulli in the Lotus leads the field out of the pitlane.
The Toro Rosso pair have slipped past Trulli and lead the field through the twisting new section of the circuit.
Michael Schumacher is pulling on his balaclava and helment, ahead of his return to a Formula 1 session for the first time since 2006.
Installation laps continue throughout the field as the teams put the first competitive miles on the new cars.
Adrian Sutil has crossed the line and starts a timed lap in the Force India. We expect the cars to continue on an installation process for a couple of laps in some cases.
Fernando Alonso is on track to make his Ferrari debut.
Alonso continues round the Sakhir circuit at a sedate pace as he warms up the Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton makes a practice start and heads out in the McLaren.
Michael Schumacher heads out onto the circuit in the Mercedes.
The rest of the cars are back in the pits with the mechanics checking over the machines after their first outing in the heat of Bahrain.
Schumacher returns to the pits and the Mercedes engineers will check the telemetry, to ensure that all is okay with the car in readiness for more serious running a little later.
Timo Glock is heading back to the pits after an installation lap in the Virgin.
Sebastien Buemi is out of the Toro Rosso at the moment and talking with Red Bull reserve driver Brendon Hartley.
Robert Kubica is settling in to his new surroundings at Renault as his mechanics check over the R30.
At Force India, Tonio Liuzzi is sitting on the tool chest at the back of the garage, as the mechanics continue to prepare his car.
Rubens Barrichello is in deep discussion with Patrick Head, as the data downloads continue at Williams.
This traditional quiet period may extend for some time here, with the usual lack of interest in running on a dusty circuit.
HRT F1 has worked wonders just to even make it to Bahrain. Bruno Senna has confirmed that one of the cars is ready and that he is likely to drive this morning.
However, the team are continuing to prepare Karun Chandhok's car. India's latest Formula One star may need to wait until the second session later before he ca join proceedings.
The ban on in-race refuelling will obviously impact the normal flow of Friday's practice sessions, with teams expected to do a lot of high-fuel running on the first day of the meeting.
Tyre allocation has been reduced this year, with only 11 sets available to each driver. One set of the harder, 'prime' rubber compound must be handed back after this session, so the teams have some motivation to run this morning.
At Mercedes, Michael Schumacher is in conversation with his race engineer for this season, Andrew Shovelin. Ross Brawn is watching over his charge like a proud father.
Heikki Kovalainen breaks the silence and takes to the circuit in his Lotus.
Kovalainen is through the final sector and on to a flying lap.
Heikki bounces into the twisting new section of the circuit as he continues the first timed lap of the season.
Kovalainen clocks a 2m07.702s as the first benchmark time of the season.
The Lotus continues for another tour and is over 1.5 seconds quicker by the end of the second sector.
A 2m05.854s is Kovalainen's second effort of the day.
Jarno Trulli joins his team-mate on track as Kovalainen clocks a 2m05.466s.
Jaime Alguersuari is keeping a close eye on the Lotus drivers as they tour the circuit from the Toro Rosso pit gantry.
Trulli has been for a minor outing over the run-off at Turn 1 but continues his early laps in the Lotus.
The rest of the field is quite content to watch the progress of the Lotus drivers as they clean up the racing line.
Trulli heads back to the pits after four laps, clocking only a slow 2m19.705s.
Sebastien Buemi is putting his earplugs back in, as he prepares for a run in the Toro Rosso. It will be a few minutes before the Swiss comes out.
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is out again for a run in the controversial McLaren MP4-25.
Hamilton sets the fastest second sector as he heads around to begin a timed effort.
Hamilton is 1.4 seconds quicker than Kovalainen's Lotus through the first sector. Team-mate Button is now on track as well.
Robert Kubica guides the Renault onto the circuit for his first run of laps.
The first timed lap of Lewis Hamilton's season is a 1m57.759s, and the new early time to beat.
reports on Renault's plans: "And the real work begins as Robert heads out to start the programme. Basic set-up work to get the car dialled in today."
There is a huge amount of activity going on in the HRT F1 garage, as the team continues assembling and preparing both cars. Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna are watching developments closely.
Button slots in second quickest with his first effort of 1m59.588s.
Mark Webber is on track in the Red Bull. The Australian will be aiming to start the weekend off on a positive note with a good first run.
Kubica shoots into second position in the Renault with a lap of 1m 59.229s.
Button improves to a 1m57.903s, just over a tenth slower than his team-mate's early effort.
Tonio Liuzzi comes out onto the track, as do several other drivers. Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher among them.
Mark Webber sets a 2m00.515s lap to move into fourth spot in the Red Bull.
Hamilton clocks fastest second and third sectors to improve the benchmark to a 1m57.163s.
Michael Schumacher comes through to complete his first flying lap on his official return ... and he goes fourth with 1m58.762s.
The newly-extended middle sector with its series of twisting corners is taking over a minute to navigate on these early runs.
Felipe Massa slots in third quickest with a 1m58.179s in his Ferrari F10. Team-mate Alonso takes an early fifth on the timesheet.
Michael Schumacher posted a very good early first sector time on his second flyer, but made a small error and completed a slow lap with no improvement.
Nico Rosberg slots into third with a time of 1m57.766s in the sister Mercedes.
These sessions are likely to see a lot of running now that the track is cleaning up. The teams will be eager to understand how the tyres cope over a run with heavy fuel.
The McLarens have taken the early advantage with almost one hour gone in the first practice session of the season. Button is leading team-mate Hamilton, with Kubica now third, Rosberg fourth and Felipe Massa in fifth on his return to the sport.
Nico Hulkenberg posts his first lap on the board and is 12th quickest so far in the Williams. Team-mate Barrichello has yet to run.
Alonso navigates past Pedro de la Rosa's down the main straight. The Sauber is currently 13th quickest, some 4.5 seconds off the early benchmark.
Michael Schumacher has pitted after that short run of two flying laps. He is slipping down the list and is ninth currently.
Alonso is picking up his pace, setting the fastest middle sector to go quickest overall in 1m56.909s, despite avoiding a slow Virgin Racing car in the final corner.
Sebastian Vettel is on his first meaningful run of the weekend. He is 13th currently with a time of 2m00.137s - just over three seconds off the pace.
Massa moves up to fourth quickest, with the McLaren pair now sandwiched between the Ferrari team-mates.
Mark Webber completed his first run, ending up in seventh place. But Liuzzi demotes him to eighth spot. The Italian posts 1m57.317s to go fifth.
Sebastian Vettel is pushing hard in the Red Bull. He runs wide and takes to the painted tarmac. He recovers without problem but has slipped to 14th on the time sheet.
There are again two compounds of tyre on offer from Bridgestone, with the harder 'medium' being the natural choice of teams for this opening session. The single set of super soft rubber now allocated for Friday running will be used to check performance on heavy fuel later this afternoon.
Massa continues his run and is now past the McLaren pair, going second quickest in 1m57.055s.
Adrian Sutil is on an improving lap in the Force India. He leaps up to fourth quickest with a time of 1m57.158s. Team-mate Liuzzi is now sixth.
Rubens Barrichello exits the pits in the Williams. He will be aiming for a trouble-free run and hopefully a move into the top ten.
The Virgin pair of Glock and Di Grassi are yet to complete timed laps.
Kovalainen pits the Lotus, telling the team on the radio that he is being burned in the car and has to stop.
Nico Rosberg is back out for another run in the Mercedes. His is eighth with a best lap of 1m57.766s at the moment.
His team-mate Michael Schumacher remains in the garage as the team look to improve the set-up of his car.
Adrian Sutil upsets the pre-season apple cart and goes fastest of all with a lap of 1m56.88s. The Ferrari drivers are now second and third.
Lewis Hamilton is back on track for another run in the McLaren.
Michael Schumacher now heads out to join Mercedes team-mate Rosberg on track. The seven-time champion has slipped down to 11th place in the standings.
Sutil flies round Sakhir and moves the benchmark even further away with a lap of 1m56.696s. He is now 0.213s ahead of Fernando Alonso.
A historic moment for the Senna name and HRT F1. The team have completed work on his car and Bruno Senna now turns the first wheel. We wish him and the team well.
Senna exits the pitlane and joins the racetrack.
The McLaren pair continue to lap, with Alonso now back out in his Ferrari.
Bruno Senna gently rolls the HRT F1 car back into the pits at the end of a successful installation lap. The team will now take a detailed look at the data to see if there were any issues on that first tour.
Michael Schumacher has improved his time while the HRT F1 installation lap was taking place. The German is now ninth quickest on a 1m57.662s.
Adrian Sutil found another tenth of a second during that first serious run of laps. The best time is now 1m56.583s. Seven drivers are within one second of his pace.
Sutil is now back in the Force India garage, but team-mate Liuzzi is out there and in sixth currently.
As expected, a lot of drivers are testing pace on a long run of laps with their teams desperate to establish how the tyres hold up under the hefty fuel loads required this year.
There are less than 15 minutes remaining in the first practice session of the season. Adrian Sutil is at the top with his lap of 1m56.583s. Fernando Alonso is second, with Kubica third for Renault, Massa fourth, Button fifth and Lewis Hamilton down to sixth place.
Liuzzi is seventh in the second Force India. Rosberg and Schumacher are eighth and ninth for Mercedes. Both drivers are back in the pits making further changes.
Force India tell us via
: "Both drivers reporting a big bump through turn six that unsettles the car in a big way"
Timo Glock is on track in his Virgin and looks to be heading for a first timed lap.
Jaime Alguersuari has put in a very solid lap in the Toro Rosso. The young Spaniard is now tenth with a lap of 1m57.722s.
Michael Schumacher leaves the pits and embarks on his third run of the morning.
A pack of cars is forming up behind Glock with Vettel and De la Rosa on his tail.
Mark Webber has been in the pits for some time, as the team make set-up changes. He has slipped down to 11th in the standings, but is now back on the circuit for another run of laps.
Vettel finally gets past Glock, who crosses the line in a 2m07.051s, over 10 seconds off the pace.
Glock's team-mate, Lucas di Grassi, has been in and out of the pits but is yet to set a lap time.
Alonso improves his best with a 1m56.908s but he remains second quickest to Sutil's leading time.
18 drivers are on track as we move into the final five minutes of the session. The top seven remains unchanged for the moment.
Sebastien Buemi looks to have encountered a problem in the Toro Rosso. A slow 92-second middle sector was followed by an equally slow rounding of the final few corners. He returns to the pits.
Robert Kubica continues a busy morning in his Renault and is third quickest overall with a 1m57.041s.
Mark Webber has improved to ninth place in the Red Bull on his final run. His time is 1m57.255s. This lap demotes Schumacher to tenth place.
Webber stays on it and is very quick through the first sector of the lap. Could this be the lap that puts the Red Bull at the front of the field?
Into the final minute of opening practice in Bahrain.
The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.
The answer to the Webber question is no. He completes the lap with no improvement, despite that very quick first sector. He remains ninth.
Fernando Alonso set the fastest middle sector just before the flag but has pitted the Ferrari.
Bruno Senna made it back out onto the track shortly before the flag came out. The HRT F1 driver is now completing the first ever timed lap for the car.
Late efforts from Glock in the Virgin but him ahead of the Lotus pair and the best of the new teams in 19th, just over seven seconds off the leading time.
Senna pits the HRT F1 as the session is over. The car has now completed three trouble-free laps and the team have two-and-a-half hours to work on both cars before the afternoon session.
Adrian Sutil upsets the pre-season form book in Bahrain. The Force India driver is quickest with 1m56.583s.
Kovalainen is the last man to pit, wrapping up the first practice session of the year.
Fernando Alonso was second for Ferrari, with Robert Kubica an encouraging third for Renault.
Felipe Massa was fourth in the sister Ferrari, with Brits Button and Hamilton in fifth and sixth places.
Tonio Liuzzi completes a good first session for Force India with seventh spot, ahead of Rosberg, Webber and Michael Schumacher.
Our round-up of first practice is now available:
Sutil tops first practice in Bahrain
Formula One fans worldwide had many questions yesterday and today the answers are only just starting to unfold.
Ferrari has shaded McLaren in the early stages of heavy fuel running, but Force India has put in a great performance with Sutil topping the list this morning.
The new teams all ran at least one car. They will be glad that the season has started and now they can study the data and make changes ahead of the second session.
Will the expected Ferrari versus McLaren show manifest itself this afternoon? Join us from 10:45 GMT to find out.
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