Schumacher admits to 'rustiness' on return
By Andrew Benson and Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Bahrain
Michael Schumacher said he must "raise his game" after Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg beat him in Friday practice at the season's opening grand prix.
The German legend, returning to F1 after three years in retirement, was nearly 0.5 seconds slower than Rosberg in both practice sessions in Bahrain.
"That is a bit too much for my standards. I've got to raise my game a bit and I'm sure I'm able to," he said.
Rosberg was fastest of all, 0.445secs quicker than McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
Schumacher, who was 0.494secs behind Rosberg, had been 0.463secs slower than his team-mate in the first session in the morning.
Highlights - Bahrain second practice
Afterwards, the 41-year-old seven-time world champion said: "I certainly feel a little bit rusty, certainly on the one-lap issue I can do better.
"On long runs and consistent runs things are pretty good, I'm quite happy. I will just use the rest of the weekend in order to tweak out the little bits.
"It's not a problem. It's just that for one lap I saw that Nico was four-tenths up and that is a bit too much for my standards. I've got to raise my game a bit and I'm sure I'm able to."
Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button was fourth ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel.
Button, who appeared to be very evenly matched with Hamilton, said: "I'm reasonably happy with the car.
"It's very difficult because the rear tyres go off quite quickly here, but it's the same for everyone.
"The basic car is quite good. The long runs seem to be reasonably good. There are areas we need to work on with set-up."
The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were seventh and ninth in the afternoon after being fourth and second in the morning.
Boris Becker on Schumacher
Force India's Adrian Sutil stole the limelight in the morning session, beating Alonso to the fastest time in first practice, heading the double world champion by 0.325secs.
Alonso said he had no idea who was in the best shape for Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race.
"It's still completely unknown," he said. "For sure, out of the four big teams, any can be on pole. And there could be a surprise like Force India, who seem very quick on this type of circuit.
"We are in a position to attack 100%. We are confident with the car - we need to make changes to improve the grip but there is nothing wrong."
The gap between the fastest and slowest times was even bigger than expected, with Rosberg more than six seconds faster than the quickest car from a new team.
That car belonged to Virgin's Timo Glock, who was 0.15secs quicker than his team-mate, the Brazilian novice Lucas di Grassi.
Heikki Kovalainen, the quicker of the two Lotus drivers, was two seconds slower than Glock - a margin that is almost certainly not representative of the true performance of the cars.
The Hispania team, who arrived in Bahrain having never run their car before, managed to put some mileage on it in the hands of Bruno Senna, the nephew of Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna.
But Senna was more than 12 seconds off the pace in what is effectively a shakedown test for the car. Hispania missed all the pre-season test sessions as they battled to get themselves ready in time for the first race, following a change of name and ownership.
Senna also suffered a scare when something broke on his car at the end of one of the straights in the closing stages of the afternoon session.
His team-mate, the Indian driver Karun Chandhok, did not get out on to the track at all on Friday because the team could not make his gearbox work.
It remains to be seen whether Friday's times are a reliable indicator of form, as practice sessions are even harder to read than usual following the banning of in-race refuelling this season.
Cars will now go to the grid fully laden with approximately 160kg - about 210 litres of fuel - and teams have to use the practice sessions to learn about the behaviour of their cars and tyres on both heavy and light fuel loads.
Cars will qualify with as little fuel as possible before filling up for the start of the race, and finding the best compromise between set-ups for the two conditions will be one of the major challenges of the season.
As fuel loads, tyre choice and track conditions can have a dramatic effect on lap times, it makes the list of fastest times in practice virtually meaningless without further analysis.