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Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Bahrain GP practice as it happened

By Mark Orlovac

1258: That's me done for today, but we'll be back tomorrow bright and breezy from 0730 GMT for third practice and qualifying. It will be a stonker. Promise. Before then, watch Inside F1 on the BBC News channel tonight at 1845 GMT and listen to BBC Radio 5 live's Bahrain Grand Prix preview show at 2030 GMT. See you tomorrow.

1252: Just a quick plug before we sign off for the day, in case you need a fix of racing action - let our Classic Races series whet your appetite. To kick things off we asked for your favourite season openers and you responded with five of the very best. To see extended highlights of the top selection and lovingly-created edits of four other glorious season openers go to Andrew Benson's blog.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt on Twitter: "Crush at Schumacher interview. He says he is a bit rusty and needs to shake it off."

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Tomek via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide): "Great to see Robert Kubica and his new team Renault. He will definitely be the dark horse."

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fastfanOFsport on 606: "Does anyone else think that Hamilton might struggle with protecting his tyres? His style in the past would point towards high tyre wear."

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HP888 on 606: "Hard to tell who's on top from watching practice but the Mercedes and McLaren look like they have the upper hand. Don't know who's the quickest as there all running different tyres and fuel so Q3 will be interesting to watch. Looks like RBR are in for a long night working on Webber's car."

Virgin Racing on Twitter: "Like most sessions, that was a bit of a mixed bag. The car is looking really good, lots of promise but we are missing testing time."

Renault on Twitter: "No problems to report, a solid Friday to start the year."

1234: It is worth repeating that we cannot read too much into the practice times as we do not know the exact fuel loads the cars were carrying. Saying that, it might be prudent to give you the rest of the top 10: Vettel, The Hulk, Massa, Petrov, Alonso, De La Rosa. Australian Mark Webber had problems with his Red Bull in the second session and was restricted to 12 laps. As for the new teams, Senna completed 17 laps for Hispania while Timo Glock only had three in his Virgin. Team-mate Lucas di Grassi did manage 21 however. The Lotus pairing of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli were 18th and 19th respectively.

1230: That's it, Friday's testing comes to a close. Here's a list of the top drivers: Rosberg (1:55.409), Hamilton (1:55.854), Schumacher (1:55.903), Button (1:56.076). Senna completes his lap and his Hispania car leaves the track at Turn One. Something falls off his car but he manages to turn it around and parks it safely.

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Lieutenant General Red on 606: "If only the Hulk had a green car. Maybe we could start a petition for him to have a green helmet with 'don't make me mad' written on it."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt on Twitter: "FIA president Jean Todt has just swept through the media centre. He'll be talking to the press later."

1219: We had a chat earlier about who we think will win the world championship, and here is the expert view from our very own F1 pundits. It's a good read, have a look here.

1217: It seems that the drivers are trying out some heavy fuel runs. It's Rosberg top with a 1:55.409, followed by Hamilton, Schumacher, Button, Vettel, The Hulk, Petrov, with BMW Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa in eighth.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "There's an interesting twist to the McLaren rear wing/funnel argument. Some believe that the drivers actually have a role in making the system work. The rumour is that they can move their knees to block the airflow through the car to a degree, which would do something called 'stall' the rear wing - ie, make it work less well - thereby further increasing the car's straightline speed. During the break between sessions, I spoke to a leading engineer from a rival team, who said that if that was true, the system was in his opinion 'definitely illegal', on the basis that the drivers' knees would be affecting the airflow over the car, and would therefore effectively be a movable aerodynamic device, which are banned. Speculation is rife that one of McLaren's rivals may protest the car at the end of the race."

Renault on Twitter: "Robert [Kubica] just asked to back off behind Jenson to find some clear air. Vitaly's back out for a longer run. He's still in top 10, a good first day at the office."

1201: Button is told that his "pace is good" by his garage, he is also told to "press his big blue button". That means oil transfer according to Holly Samos. Red Bull's Seb Vettel move up to fifth with a 1:56.459. Schumacher locks his brakes and goes wide in the middle section of the track.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "The Sakhir track has been lengthened for this year's race with a new section of nine corners after Turn Four. This adds about half a mile to the lap, and has lengthened lap times to nearly two minutes. It is fair to say the new section has not exactly won rave reviews. Described by some as 'Mickey Mouse', there is also a nasty bump at Turn Six, the quickest corner in the new section, which the drivers are very unhappy about."

1155: Karun Chandhok is resigned to the fact that he is probably not going to take his Hispania Racing car out this afternoon. He tells BBC Sport's Holly Samos: "We have had a lot of problems, we can't seem to get the clutch and gearbox working. I don't think we are going to get out which is really quite disappointing. It's such a shame for the mechanics they have worked all night without any sleep - so I feel for them. It's some sort of electronic or hydraulic issue - it's not mechanical. It's frustrating to be honest but I will try and keep my chin up. It's a very difficult first day in F1 for me." He adds afterwards that although he wouldn't normally use the phrase, he predicts the next few races will be "character building".

1148: Renault say that Petrov set that time on the softer tyre. Whoops, Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari almost wipes out after getting out of shape after Turn Six. The Spaniard just, and only just, prevents his back end thumping the barrier. That saved his team a bit of money.

1144: Rosberg improves to a 1:55.409, Hamilton is second quickest, followed by Schumacher, Button, Renault's Vitaly Petrov, The Hulk, Vettel and Sutil.

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Rob in Northampton via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide): "The Williams looks good and consistent on long and short runs. Anyone fancy a fiver each way on either Williams drivers for Sunday?"

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Michael via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide): "Hello from Melbourne. Think Kubica will be the dark horse this season. See you in two weeks."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "Robert Kubica caught the eye with his pace in the Renault in first practice - setting the third fastest time behind Adrian Sutil's Force India and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. The Renault looked off the pace throughout pre-season testing, but the team have a package of upgrades here, including a new diffuser, and the team believe that, if the performance matches up to their simulations, they could make a significant leap towards the front."

1132: Television replays are showing a series of cars 'bottoming-out' at Turn Six. That could be a problem for the teams during the race. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who has christened his 2010 car "Luscious Liz", is having his brakes changed after running wide. Did you know that last year, Vettel shunned the limelight by holidaying in Finland, in a caravan. I do not mean to be fickle but he is now my new favourite driver.

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steve_strings on 606 "Amazed no-one else has realised this - but if ever there was an opportunity for a gag...why don't you use the famous song by the Who tomorrow to kick things off? - 'Won't get fuelled again'."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Bahrain: "The word is that Adrian Sutil's table-topping time for Force India from first practice was set with just a splash of fuel in the tank. Much like winter testing, practice can be a game of bluff, but at least Sutil has fessed up about what he did during his leisure time over the break. The German says he spent some time with his best friend in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton, as the pair live near each other in Switzerland. He said they played a few F1 computer games and reckons it's the only time he can get the better of the 2008 world champion."

1124: I have a funny feeling we have not heard the last of the controversy over McLaren's rear wing design, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has been talking to BBC 5 live Sport Extra's Holly Samos about it. He said: "It was obvious from testing McLaren were doing something different. We wanted to know if it was illegal or innovative - and apparently it's innovative. It's a little bit like the double diffuser, but nowhere near the same magnitude in terms of performance advantage. It is certainly against the intent of the regulations, but the FIA have okayed it. There is no point bleating on about it, we will all end up developing one, so we may as well get on with it. Hats off to McLaren, they have came up with it and we will all end up with derivatives of it."

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "It was very difficult to read the first session because the leading teams did so few laps, and the times varied so much. Jenson Button, for example, did his 1:57.068 lap in a seven-lap run, but then was lapping five seconds slower when he went out again, signalling a much heavier fuel load. But how heavy? An engineer from one of Ferrari's rivals did admit, though, that the red cars 'looked quick' - especially in the twisty stuff in the middle of the lap. The McLarens, interestingly in the context of the row over a device on their car that is believed to improve its straightline speed, were the quickest in the first and third sectors of the lap - both of which are dominated by long straights."

Virgin Racing on Twitter: "Some of last night's arrival of parts still going onto Timo [Glock's] car. He should be out soonish."

1118: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg sets the fastest lap so far, a 1:55.555, with team-mate Michael Schumacher third after a 1:56.504. Rubens Barrichello in the Williams is now sixth.

1115: Jenson Button is now second with a 1:56.516. Hamilton has only done four laps in the second session but reports to his team that his tyres are "destroyed". Hmmm. There will be some hard work in the McLaren garage now methinks.

1112: It's as lively as a night out with Amy Winehouse out there at the moment. Lewis Hamilton takes his McLaren top with a 1:56.051 with Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg, fast becoming my favourite basically because he has 'The Hulk' as his nickname, second with a 1:56.799.

1108: Defending champion Jenson Button goes top with a 1:56.944 with Force India's Vitantonio Liuzzi second after a 1:58.533. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari posts a 2:00.150 and is third.

BBC F1 commentator Jonathan Legard: "Bruno Senna finally took the Hispania car out on track during first practice in Bahrain and has reported back that he still needs the cockpit to be made more comfortable - apparently he keeps banging his elbows. He also wants the headrest to be adjusted. But the Brazilian isn't fazed. He says throughout his racing career, he's had to deliver to a deadline with little preparation. Fellow newcomers Virgin Racing say their cars will be running with an aerodymanic upgrade during second practice. They've also cleared up why Lucas di Grassi didn't set a time in the first session. Apparently there was a hydraulic leak - and it's not the first time they've been undone by that particular problem."

1100: Green light and we are off again. The Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari is the first car out and he sets a time of 2:02.757.

1054: Lotus report that they will be doing some long runs in the second session to "check tyre degradation and brake wear". Heikki Kovalainen explains that the reason he had a hot bottom this morning was because of "hot air blowing a bit too much" but that "the last run it was fixed no problem". So that's OK then.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Bahrain: "Hello again. A sweltering lunch break in Bahrain, where temperatures have climbed to 32C. The warm weather saw team bosses Christian Horner and Peter Sauber emerge for an al fresco lunch on their respective team verandas. Red Bull driver Mark Webber looked a little more serious as he chewed things over with his race engineer Ciaran Pilbeam. Giancarlo Fisichella was getting used to having more time on his hands as a reserve driver at Ferrari HQ. And Williams were unpacking a very large cardboard box at the back of their garage. New parts perchance?"

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JAY_87 on 606: "A few thoughts after FP1. Jenson is looking good, early days but a very promising start. The Williams looks very smart on track. Alonso looks 'on it', which is ominous, but again, early days. Surprised the Red Bulls weren't further up the time sheets, but we don't know what program they were running. Although they hadn't turned a wheel in anger before today, that HRT looks a handful to say the least."

Dazzmond in Telford via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide): "I'd love Button to win the championship again but I think it will be Alonso."

1036: Murray Walker knows pretty much all there is to know about F1, he's been covering the sport for 51 years. He reckons the 2010 season is going to be (cue impression) "absolutely sensational". Have a look at the great man's video preview of the season. The report for first practice is here and you can also catch up with all the action from practice one on the BBC iPlayer. That last one is for UK users only, sorry.

Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne on Twitter: "Good first session. 38 laps in total and no real mechanical problems. Ran early when track was very green. Some new aero parts on the car for this afternoon and moving the weight distribution forward. Track will also improve."

1030: Look alive, we're back. Practice session two starts in 30 minutes. During the break, the F1 desk here at BBC Towers have been discussing who will win this year's title. The names mentioned: Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Schumacher and… Adrian Sutil. The colleague who mentioned the Force India driver then changed that prediction to Alonso but the deed is now done and we are holding him to it. Who do you think will come out on top? Let me know by text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide), Twitter or on 606 . You know you want to.

0844: With the opening session now over, this seems like a good opportunity to make you aware of some of the live sport happening elsewhere, namely Mark Mitchener, who is taking you through England's first Test against Bangladesh. Give it a gander. The second practice session begins at 1100 GMT, so we'll be back just before then after a bit of breakfast. Don't you go changing.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "It wouldn't be the start of an F1 season without a technical row, and the debate over an innovation on the McLaren has certainly got rival engineers exercised. It is a lot more than a slot in the rear wing of the car. Actually, air is believed to be taken into the car through a vent in front of the cockpit. It seems it then goes through the car and out of the back of the engine cover. The system - which speculation says can also be influenced by the drivers - affects the airflow to the rear wing, giving the car less drag, and therefore a higher maximum speed, on the straights."

0836: Force India showed well in pre-season testing and will be happy with their opening practice in Bahrain with Sutil topping the times and Vitantonio Liuzzi sitting in seventh.

0830: The flag drops for the end of the session. Senna is fighting with his Hispania car as he battles to get it around the track. Sutil tops the list with Alonso, Kubica, Massa, Button and Hamilton coming in behind. Schumacher is down in 10th with a best time of 1:57.662. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is 13th after a 1:57.943. Senna does not set a time as he comes into the pits.

Renault on Twitter: "Drivers back out for their final run this session. No problems to report so far..."

Force India on Twitter: "Both drivers reporting a big bump through turn six that unsettles the car in a big way."

BBC pit-lane reporter Lee McKenzie: "Karun Chanhok is frustratingly watching from the sidelines as his Hispania car won't be ready in time for him to make his F1 bow during first practice. Since signing for the team an unbelievable 10 days ago, the team has been in a race against time to even make it to Bahrain and it looks like it has caught up with them this morning. The pressure on the 26-year-old in India - and the press coverage - has been intense as Karun becomes only the second-ever India driver after former Jordan man Narain Karthikeyan. Karun, who lives in Brackley where his local Indian restaurant has named a dish in his honour, really needs to get some running under his belt as this is Hispania's shakedown. I spoke to him on Thursday and he said: 'It's been a nervous winter trying to wait for things to happen. It's a big battle for the team but we won the first race just by being here. Growing up I was a Michael Schumacher fan with a red shirt on and it will be strange starting on the grid with him'."

0815: Senna returns to the pits after an installation lap. According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson there was a little cheer in the media centre as he took the car out. Nice. Renault's Robert Kubica goes third with a 1:57.041.

0807: A big moment, Hispania Racing Team take to the track with Bruno Senna gingerly and carefully guiding his vehicle on to the circuit. Sutil now tops the timesheets with a 1:56.583. Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen comes in to the pits as a pipe is burning his leg.

BBC Sport's Lee McKenzie on Twitter: "Bernie is backing Sebastian Vettel to be World Champion 2010. Would you bet against the main man in charge?"

0801: Force India's Adrian Sutil is now up to fourth thanks to a 1:57.158. Massa records a 1:57.055 to go second.

Steve Rogers via text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide): "Great to see Button laying down a pace equalling his team-mate already!"

0753: There's some movement on the timesheets now. Fernando Alonso takes his Ferrari top with a 1:56.909 with team-mate Felipe Massa fourth behind the two McLarens after a 1:57.191.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson in Bahrain: "As if there weren't already more than enough fascinating threads to this weekend, another has emerged with the appointment of four-time world champion Alain Prost as an advisor to the stewards. Prost is a heavyweight - and hugely respected - name to kick off one of new FIA president Jean Todt's biggest initiatives so far, aimed at giving stewards' decisions more credibility and consistency, as well as avoiding some of the more controversial decisions that have clouded F1 in the past few years. I'll have a bit more on this move later on after I've checked out a few details."

0746: McLaren's Jenson Button has set the fastest time of the day so far, a 1:57.068, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton second with a 1:57.163.

0735: Thankfully, we have not had the double diffuser row that we had last year but a slot on the rear wing of the McLaren is causing a bit of stir. FIA technical chief Charlie Whiting has cleared it but Renault managing director Bob Bell is not happy. He tells BBC Sport: "It is fundamentally clear that the McLaren wing design is totally illegal they have driven a cart horse through the sprit of the rules and regulations. They have opened up another arms race, it's going to cost everybody a lot of money. The governing bodies need to be a lot stronger with these things."

Renault on Twitter: "The drivers have jumped out of the cars, team giving the car the usual once over before we get into the session."

0727: We have only one proper time set so far today. That's from the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen, who has posted a 2:05.466.

0720: Some good chat from Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali on our red button coverage. He said that it felt like Alonso "had been here for years" and had settled in well at the team. Revealingly, he also mentioned that his team were a little bit behind their main competitor. He did not mention who that was though.

0715: Here's your chance to get involved in this commentary. You can text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide), tweet me on the very trendy Twitter or use the 606 boards. I'll be waiting.

0706: Bruno Senna of the new Hispania Racing Team tells BBC pit lane reporter Holly Samos that the car of team-mate Karun Chandok is not likely to be ready for first practice. The team have not actually had any pre-season testing at all so far so that is not good news.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Bahrain: "The intense desert heat is enough to make anything wilt and the atmosphere ahead of 2010's season-opener felt a little subdued as Formula 1 made its first stop in Bahrain. A temperature check on day one clocked 29C and most people stayed hidden in the shade of the wide paddock -there weren't quite the lively, back-to-school spirits experienced at 2009's Australian curtain-raiser. But by mid-afternoon any heat-induced apathy had evaporated as four world champions - Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - sat down to face a media throng. The quartet, favourites for the 2010 title along with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, posed for the cameras and suddenly a sense of excited anticipation about the competition ahead surged through the room. Schumacher sat front and centre, chewing gum with his gaze coolly fixed to the ground. McLaren team-mates Hamilton and Button giggled like teenagers on the back row while Alonso sat in splendid isolation to the left of Schumacher, who whispered in the ear of Ferrari driver Felipe Massa to his right each time a McLaren driver had the floor. Just who was trying to psyche who out on the eve of the brand new F1 season?"

0700: Lewis Hamilton is looking very chilled in the McLaren garage while team-mate Jenson Button slips into his car. As the light turns to green, a queue of cars forms at the end of the pit lane. The first car out on to the track is the Lotus of Jarno Trulli. We are go.

0651: We'll get a chance to see the drivers in action very soon when first practice starts at 0700 GMT. The pictures I'm getting are of a very sunny Bahrain, which is quite sickening after the freezing ride I had into work at half past five this morning. The streaming is just about to start at the top of this page. Awesome.

0642: That should be enough to get you drooling in anticipation but just in case you need any more encouragement, we'll mix in three new teams, add a revamped points system as well as sprinkling in some intriguing rule changes. Now that's not too shabby is it? I've even had a dream about Rubens Barrichello this week. Is that sad?

0638: Morning all, and a very warm welcome to one of the most eagerly-anticipated Formula 1 seasons for a long time. We have four, count them - four world champions on the grid, two of them racing for McLaren, Alonso back in a competitive car as well as the return of some bloke called Schumacher. Never heard of him. Is he any good?

0630: It's been 163 days since Fernando Alonso signed for Ferrari, 145 days since Jenson Button won the 2009 world title, 79 days since Michael Schumacher confirmed his return to the sport and approximately 65 days since my eldest son asked me if doing this job would lead to a meet up with Lewis Hamilton. The waiting is almost over. Welcome to F1 2010.

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see also
Schumacher keen to 'raise game'
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Friday's F1 gossip column
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Winning start is vital - Button
11 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
All-clear for McLaren wing design
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Brawn thrilled by new F1 season
09 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Campos change name to Hispania F1
03 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton to edge Button - Mansell
07 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Renault boss keen for fresh start
08 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Indian Chandhok in at Hispania F1
04 Mar 10 |  Formula 1

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