BIC, Sakhir – The deafening roars of Formula One engines signaled the start of this year’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.
Thousands of race fans from Bahrain and overseas made their way to “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East” – the only desert race track in Formula One – and cheered on as the sport’s brightest stars put on a show.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg shared the honours of being the fastest drivers on the opening day of the weekend-long event.
Hamilton set the pace in the day’s first practice session around a very dusty 5.412-kilometre track. Rosberg then topped the timesheet in the afternoon.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that both drivers excel at the Sakhir race track. Back in 2004 when both were competing in the Formula Three Euro Series, both Hamilton and Rosberg were on the BIC podium for the Bahrain F3 Superprix exhibition event. Hamilton was the victor while Rosberg finished as the runner-up.
Friday’s practices officially kick started the Kingdom’s highly anticipated Formula One weekend, which marks the fourth round of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Action continues Saturday (April 21) with a third practice session and qualifying, to be followed on Sunday by the long-awaited mega event, the 2012 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton stole the show in Friday’s opening practice with a best lap of one minute 33.572 seconds. The Briton led double World champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing who was 0.305 seconds off the pace, while Paul di Resta of Force India was classified third 0.578s behind.
Rosberg was fourth (+0.677s), Jenson Button of McLaren fifth (+0.705s) and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg sixth (+0.772s). Mercedes ace Michael Schumacher (+0.911s) and Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber (+0.980s) rounded out the top eight.