Former Renault and McLaren man Heikki Kovalainen eventually emerged fastest of the sextet, posting a best lap of 2min 00.873secs around the extended Bahrain International Circuit layout, but was still a massive 5.4secs off the pace set by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Lotus team-mate Jarno Trulli ensured that the Malaysian-backed team ended day one as best of the newcomers, backing Kovalainen up in 19th spot having been the first car on track as day one of the campaign opened, and chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne insisted that the team was pleased with its efforts just six months to the day after its entry was confirmed by the FIA.
“It was a good day for the team after a very long night preparing the cars,” Gascoyne noted, having seen his driver rack up 73 laps between them, “Everyone worked very hard and it was satisfying to see us first out on track and then put in a solid performance throughout the day.
“We tried an aero upgrade this afternoon and we’ll look at the results of that in the debrief, but now we’re looking forward to putting in another professional performance in qualifying.”
Over a Virgin Racing, however, it was a different story, with Timo Glock leading the frustration after a long night was followed by a troubled day.
The emphasis was on a slow and steady start to the long list of set-up and tyre evaluations that defined the team’s Friday programme and, once up-and-running, Glock’s rookie team-mate Lucas di Grassi was able to get some reasonable running under his belt, despite sitting out the morning session. While the Brazilian ended the day 21st overall – with a best time of 2min 02.188secs – after 21 laps, however, Glock was confined to the garage for most of the afternoon session with a gearbox issue. The German ended the day 20th.
“Today hasn’t been the start to the weekend that we hoped for,” Glock sighed, “We always knew it was going to be tough, but we’ve had too many technical problems which have prevented me getting track time today. We already had two tough nights, but we have another one ahead, I’m afraid, to get us to a point where we can feel confident going into the rest of the weekend.
“On the positive side, if we can get on top of the issues we have, we’ll be in an okay place because, with the brief amount of running I have had, I can see that the car isn’t bad. I hope we can be ready to get some proper work done tomorrow.”