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Chilton tops Friday practice

27 April 2012

With no F1 hoopla surrounding them, it was a ghostly quiet Bahrain International Circuit awaiting the GP2 teams at Sakhir making the earlier-than-usual Friday morning practice session feel more like a test day than the start of a race weekend.

The lack of supporting races meant that the track had returned to a dusty, green state, and with the cooler weather from the early start it seemed that many teams were in no hurry to get out on track. The two Coloni cars were the eager exception to the rule, Fabio Onidi and Stefano Coletti heading the queue to lead the cars off pit lane as the lights went green.

They were seeking to check some of the major set-up changes the team had made after analysing the data from last week's practice, qualifying and race sessions, and Onidi duly set the first serious fast time of the day six minutes into the session with a lap of 1:43.658s.

By contrast, the front runners were generally keeping their powder dry and only Carlin's Max Chilton proved the exception to the rule when he soon put in a 1:42.136s to go top just before the ten minute mark, which ultimately proved to be the best time of the day.

Chilton's team mate Rio Haryanto had the second-best time at this point with a 1:42.793s, and Giedo van der Garde, Felipe Nasr, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Fabrizio Crestani were also among those to come out for fast laps.

It wasn't until the midway mark that Davide Valsecchi roused himself to come out on track at the midway point. However, after dominating all sessions last weekend in Bahrain, the DAMS' first flying lap of 1:42.795s was still over six tenths off Chilton's benchmark, and just behind Haryanto's.

Valsecchi didn't have an immediate chance to build on his time, though, as first Julian Leal overcooked it through the final corner and went for the scenic route, and then Jolyon Palmer ended up crawling to a stop on the exit of turn 8 after suffering a serious of lock-ups at the 20 minute mark. That brought out a five minute red flag, leaving the drivers only a five minute final sprint opportunity to improve their times.

Valsecchi improved his time to 1:42.436s - exactly three tenths off Chilton's early best - and Arden's Luiz Razia also put in an appearance to record the third fastest time of the session with a 1:42.691s.

By contrast, Lotus GP duo Esteban Gutierrez and James Calado opted not to set any fast lap time at all and settled for the briefest of installation laps, preferring instead to keep their tyres for the practice session that was to follow an hour later.

See practice session times and positions.


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