Fernando Alonso returned Ferrari to the top of the timesheets in final practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix but there were plenty of headlines aside from the Spaniard’s pacesetting performance. Alonso was a tenth of a second ahead of the two Red Bulls with half a second covering the top nine cars, suggesting the fight for pole will be intense later this afternoon.
Alonso edged ahead of long time pacesetter Sebastian Vettel once he switched to the medium tyres in the final ten minutes but he was lucky to get that opportunity after an uncharacteristic at turn two. The Chinese GP winner seemed to clip the kerb slightly as he powered through the right hander and was sent spinning into the gravel on the outside. Thankfully for Alonso, the gravel trap wasn’t particularly deep and he was able to scamper away, going on to top the session although Sergio Perez accused him of blocking him after doing so.
Nevertheless, Fernando finished ahead of Vettel and Mark Webber who were just three hundredths of a second apart while Kimi Raikkonen came in just two tenths off the ultimate pace in fourth. Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest for Mercedes and the Briton had the most worrying moment of all when he suffered a left rear tyre delamination on his in lap after taking the chequered flag. The W04 also appeared to have suspension damage when it returned to the pits, leaving the team with work to do before the car is ready for qualifying.
Romain Grosjean was a competitive fifth after a session where he looked strong throughout and the same could be said for the two Force Indias who finished seventh and eighth with Adrian Sutil fractionally faster than Paul Di Resta. Nico Rosberg was ninth ahead of compatriot Nico Hulkenberg and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa while the suggestion that McLaren might struggle to reach Q3 was backed up by their performance. Jenson Button was only eight tenths down on Alonso but the closeness of the field left him down in twelfth with Sergio Perez a second off in thirteenth.