bahrainsculpture.jpgFerrari driver Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets in both free practice sessions today at the Sakhir Circuit in sand swept Bahrain, sending the tifosi into a nail-biting frenzy of expectation ahead of Sunday’s third round of the F1 World Championship. It is expected that Sunday will bring a closely fought battle between Ferrari and McLaren, with both title protagonists Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso predicting a tough fight…well assuming Kimi turns up and isn’t off pursuing his favourite hobby collecting walnuts (don’t ask).

In the morning’s free practice session in Bahrain, Kimi beat his nearest rival team mate Felipe Massa by over half a second, and the next quickest non-Ferrari driver Lewis Hamilton by nearly a second.

Overnight storms meant that the track was very ‘green’, probably akin to the colour Kimi appears to be the morning after the night before…. No seriously, overnight rain meant that grip was poor and the morning session witnessed more than a handful of driver’s taking the term ‘sandbagging’ literally by disappearing off track on excursions. Even experienced old hands like Double World Champion Fernando Alonso had a few moments in the sandpit, albeit minus the ice lolly and proverbial bucket and spade combo.

Heikki Kovaleinen, Alex Wurz, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Scott Speed and Christian Albers all had some slightly wild moments trying to keep their cars on track. Of course Ferrari’s Felipe Massa managed to recover the car to the racetrack and we should think so considering all the relevant experience he gained last weekend.

Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Scuderia Torro Rosso managed to break into the top 10 in the morning session (which is a surprise considering he seems usually only to manage doing doughnuts or inducing the safety car out of its hidey-hole). Along with the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz, Liuzzi managed to relegate Honda’s Jenson Button out of the top 10.

kimiraikkosakhir.jpgJenson Button can however take some consolation from the fact he was not the slowest of the British drivers; that honour befalling Red Bull’s David “Cubehead” Coulthard.

Both of the Red Bulls struggling to make any kind of impact in the morning session and were only held off the bottom of the timesheets by the Spyker team….who were reportedly off having a war conference behind a sand dune with tea-towels on heads, contemplating who to fall out with this week.

Kimi again topped the time sheets in the afternoon session, but only managing to hold onto his lead by a mere 0.013 seconds over McLaren’s star rookie Lewis Hamilton. A late effort by BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica saw the other Ferrari driver Felipe Massa relegated to fourth spot on the timesheets and Nando only managing fifth.

One hour into the session Jenson Button decided he couldn’t wait for Canada anymore and was going to have a go at rearranging the troubled Honda’s aerodynamic package himself, a big explosion of flames shooting out the back of his vehicle. Actually the truth of the matter is the engine let go, but I can’t help thinking it might have actually had some unexpected beneficial effects elsewhere on the car….I mean it can’t get any worse can it?

cheerfulmassa.jpgFelipe Massa nearly suffering a deja-vu moment as his car slipped on the resulting oil leak, and his race engineer Rob Smedley had to remind the poor little Brazilian via the radio that he was in fact in Bahrain not Malaysia….luckily our little poppet managed to rejoin the track without any further problem…or without any toys coming out the pram.

I’m beginning to wonder if old age and a much needed trip to vision express really is setting in rapidly on DC. First there was the incident in Australia where he tried to drive over Alex Wurz’s car narrowly missing taking the austrian’s head clean off, then today DC narrowly avoided running over a Toyota engineer in the pitlane.

As one of the Toyota cars was being backed into the garage, Coulthard took the opportunity to squeeze through the gap and attempt to play human skittles with the ensuing engineers. Luckily a keen eyed Toyota engineer spotted the Red Bull before it was too late and managed to pull his hapless mate to safety before it all got a bit too messy. Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney (who you may remember had a close up and personal with Michael Schumacher’s car some years back) we can assume is rather pleased to be sitting back safely at his desk in Maranello right now…as it seems it’s rather a dangerous job being an F1 technical bod.

The rest of the afternoon was peppered with off-track excursions and other near misses, at one point Ralf Schumacher nearly living up to the family name, by narrowly missing driving Scott Speed off the road Jerez Style. Better luck next time, Ralfie.

As the session wore on the apparent heat of Bahrain was stating to take its toll on the Italian contingent. Both Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella doing impressions of grumpy old men (well they aren’t far off) shaking their fists, gesticulating and muttering under their breath at slower drivers.
Well I say slower drivers, but considering Fisichella could only manage 15th that doesn’t make a whole lot of drivers for him to gesticulate at…so perhaps it was actually the poor bemused locals taking a bashing.

Just two more days to go…..In the meantime I’m off to petition the FIA to start broadcasting Fisichella’s Radio on their live timing system, it could really jolly up a boring Friday afternoon in the office.