Bahrain: Hamilton leads practice as Sakhir flags off 10 year F1 anniversary in sparkling style

Hamilton’s best of today was marginally slower than his personal best lap during the eight days of pre-season testing in Bahrain held in February and March. He had registered a best time of 1:33.278 then..

BIC, Sakhir – Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) shone bright under the stars last night as the 2014 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix flagged off in brilliant fashion.

BIC’s all-new state-of-the-art lighting system made its official global debut as Lewis Hamilton emerged as the day’s fastest man in Sakhir. Hamilton led Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari superstar Fernando Alonso in the top three of the timesheets in both Formula One practice sessions.

In the day’s first run held in the early afternoon, Hamilton, Rosberg and Alonso were all within a half-a-second from each other. Hamilton then upped the pace in the evening session, which took place under the much-talked- about floodlights, showcasing an all-new spectacle for fans in Bahrain and around the world. The cooler conditions and faster track helped Hamilton clock the day’s overall fastest time of one minute 34.325 seconds. Hamilton’s best of today was marginally slower than his personal best lap during the eight days of pre-season testing in Bahrain held in February and March. He had registered a best time of 1:33.278 then.

This weekend’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix commemorates BIC’s landmark 10th anniversary and 10th hosting of the prestigious Formula One race, which will be held at night for the very first time.

In today’s first free practice, Hamilton clocked a mark of 1:37.502. He led Rosberg by a mere 0.231s while Alonso was just 0.451s off the pace. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg followed 0.620s from first, while McLaren ace Jenson Button, headed for his landmark 250th Grand Prix start on Sunday, was 1.134s adrift.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (+1.281s) trailed in sixth, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen (+1.447s) was classified seventh and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat (+1.554s) rounded out the top eight, which featured five Mercedes-powered cars. In practice two, which was held under BIC’s stunning track floodlighting system, Hamilton made a significant improvement on his lap time by going nearly three seconds quicker. Rosberg followed suit as he was 0.365s behind, while three-time Bahrain Grand Prix winner Alonso completed the same leading trio 1.035s back. Daniel Ricciardo put World champions Red Bull in fourth 1.108s off the pace.

Felipe Massa, who has won at BIC twice in the past, followed in fifth with a 1.117s gap from the top. Button was next 1.203s behind, World champion Sebastian Vettel seventh only 1.281s back, and Kvyat once again surprising the field with a strong eighth-placed ranking 1.315s out.

The weekend’s events at this year’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix continue tomorrow (Saturday) with another whole day’s programme of unparalleled motor racing and entertainment. Doors open at 11am and plenty can be enjoyed both on and off the race track until closing past 11pm.

THE SCORPIONS AND AFROJACK SET TO TAKE CENTRE STAGE

While the FIA Formula One World Championship is the main draw of the weekend, race-goers are set to be treated to a fantastic double-bill of world-class entertainment on Saturday night. Legendary rock band THE SCORPIONS and two-time Grammy Award-winning DJ and producer AFROJACK will be putting on live back-to-back performances at BIC, much to the delight of their legions of fans. Their concerts follow the hugely successful live show of Saudi pop sensation RABEH SAQER, held late this evening at BIC’s F1 Village vending area. The same location will be lit up all Saturday night, with THE SCORPIONS performing from 7.30pm followed by AFROJACK from 9.30pm. Also as part of the entertainment hand-picked by BIC for the weekend are a wide variety of main stage acts at BIC’s F1 Village vending area, roaming performers, an extreme activity, an F1 Game Zone and a pair of children’s entertainment tents. The main stage acts will feature popular UK-based street dance crews Boadicea and Peridot, solo musician The Petebox, and MC Tony and DJ Tony. Among the roaming acts will be the Spark! LED drummers, Cornalusa, The Dapper Chaps, Sideshow Steveie, Art Prometheus and many more. The extreme activity is a High-Rope Course, while the F1 Game Zone will take you right into the heart of F1 racing. Finally, the children’s entertainment will see two exclusive tents – the first catered to popular TV character Shaun the Sheep, and the other featuring an under-the-sea theme. Both will have plenty of fun shows, games and so much more for young kids.

FANTASTIC “10 EVERY 10” RAFFLE DURING F1 QUALIFYING SATURDAY

Fans attending this weekend’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix and who are seated on the Main Grandstand will have a chance to win fantastic prizes every 10 minutes during tomorrow’s Formula One qualifying and on Sunday’s first-ever night race. The exciting raffle will reward 10 fans every 10 minutes during the 60-minute qualifying session as well as throughout the 57-lap main event on Sunday.

Aptly named as “10 EVERY 10”, the raffle will see as many as 260 lucky winners take home valuable prizes over the two days. The prizes include brand new, top-of-the-line electronic products such as Apple iPhone 5S and 5C models, Apple iPad Airs, Samsung S4s and Samsung Note 3s. A total of 60 devices will be distributed during qualifying while the remaining 200 will be given out during the Bahrain Grand Prix. The offer is only valid for fans seated at the Main Grandstand. Winners will be identified by their seat numbers; therefore, they must be in their seat in order to claim their prize. Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity and make sure you are seated for the duration of qualifying and the A team from BIC will be on hand at the Main Grandstand to hand over the winnings. Draws will be held by BIC management in the presence of a representative from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

FANS TO MEET F1 HEROES IN AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Formula One’s biggest stars will be meeting with fans at an autograph session Saturday (April 5). The autograph session will be held in front of the Paddock Club entrance between 8pm and 9pm. Fans interested in meeting their heroes will be required to gather at 7.30pm in front of BIC’s Welcome Centre, next to the traditional dhow. They will then be taken to the autograph session’s location by a team of BIC staff. Fans are advised to gather at the meeting point as early as possible. Large crowds and long queues are also to be expected. All of Formula One’s top stars will be at the autograph session, including Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen for McLaren, and Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for Williams. Also set to be signing autographs are Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez of Force India, Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson of Caterham, Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi of Marussia and Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado of Lotus.

PADDOCK CLUB PASS-HOLDERS ENJOY PIT LANE WALK

Members of Formula One’s exclusive Paddock Club were treated to a pit walk today. A large crowd turned out for the activity, which gave them an up-close-and-personal look at the Formula One teams hard at work in their garages. Another Pit Lane Walk will be held Saturday for Paddock Club pass holders.

PALMER SNATCHES POLE POSITION AS GP2 CELEBRATES ITS 10TH SEASON

Jolyon Palmer captured the season-opening pole position today as the GP2 Series kicked off its 10th season in exciting fashion. The DAMS ace pipped ART Grand Prix rival Steffon Vandoorne by just three-hundredths of a second to take the leading starting position for tomorrow’s feature race, which is scheduled to start at 1.10pm. Qualifying in the second row were Daniel Abt of Hilmer Motorsport who clocked a best lap 0.208s slower while Palmer’s teammate Stephane Richelmi was 0.216s back. Today’s events kicked off the 10th season of GP2, which has established itself as motorsport’s leading Formula One feeder series. Earlier in the day, Mitch Evans of RT Russian Time set the pace in practice. Evans registered a best lap of 1:42.062. Vandoorne followed 0.062s behind the leader, while Raffaele Marciello of Racing Engineering was 0.207s adrift.

ASHKANANI TOPS PRACTICE TIMESHEET IN PORSCHE GT3 CUP

Recently crowned champion Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait led Bahraini stars Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa and Mohammed Mattar in the top three of the timesheet during today’s practice session in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. The Porsches are running an exhibition round in support of this year’s Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Ashkanani continued from where he ended the 2013-2014 season – at the very top.

The talented youngster had a best lap time of 2:03.650 to occupy first place. Shaikh Salman tried to keep up but had to settle for second and a 0.806s gap, while Mattar finished 0.998s from Ashkanani. Fahad Algosaibi (+1.029s) followed in fourth position, Saeed Al Mehairi (+1.502s) was fifth and Charlie Frijns (+1.910s) was in sixth. A total of 14 drivers are taking part in the Porsche event this weekend. Ashkanani will be looking to maintain his position in first place when qualifying takes place tomorrow at 4.30pm.

SATURDAY’S TIMETABLE OF EVENTS TIME CATEGORY SESSION

11.30am Formula One Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk

11.55am Porsche GT3 Cup Qualifying

12.10pm Formula One Team Pit Stop Practice

1.10pm GP2 Series First Race (32 laps or 60 minutes)

3pm Formula One Third Practice Session

4.15pm Formula One Paddock Club Pit Lane Walk

4.30pm Porsche GT3 Cup First Race (10 laps or 25 minutes)

6pm Formula One Qualifying

8pm Formula One Drivers’ Autograph Session

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