Rosberg heads up Mercedes one-two in Bahrain FP2

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Nico Rosberg and Mercedes have responded to the pace shown by Ferrari during the first free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday afternoon by topping the timesheets in FP2 after the sun had set in Sakhir.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:34.647 on the option tire to record the fastest time of the second session on Friday, finishing one-tenth of a second clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton who completed a one-two for the Silver Arrows.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel had secured that exact result for Ferrari in FP1, but were forced to settle for third and fourth place respectively in the second session, some half a second down on Mercedes’ pace.

Both Hamilton and Vettel failed to squeeze every last tenth out of their cars on their fastest lap times, though, as mistakes at the final corner cost them some time.

Ferrari opted to make the switch over to the option tire very early in the session, giving itself more time to focus on its long run pace. Just as it did in China, Mercedes reacted quickly by doing the same just five minutes later.

The Italian team proved in the second half of FP2 that its long run pace would be more than a match for Mercedes in the race on Sunday, setting the stage for a thrilling fight between the two front-running teams once again.

Vettel’s FP2 did take a slight turn for the worse in the final ten minutes of the session after an on-track run-in with Sergio Perez. The German was exiting the pits and tried to allow the Force India driver past, only for a brake problem to cause him to make contact with Perez, damaging the front wing of the Ferrari.

Valtteri Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes and Ferrari in fifth place for Williams, whilst Daniel Ricciardo slotted into sixth place ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Nasr on the final timesheets. Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten on Friday evening.

McLaren’s drivers once again enjoyed a mixed session in FP2. Fernando Alonso continued to fight his way up the order by finishing 12th, but Jenson Button was sidelined early on for the second time in a few hours due to a problem on his car. Thankfully for McLaren, it did not end his day this time around, and the Briton was able to get back out on track in the final 30 minutes of the session.

At the front though, we look poised for another close fight between Mercedes and Ferrari in Bahrain. Pole position should descend into an intra-team contest at Mercedes between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but Ferrari’s long run pace suggests that it could be more than a match for the Silver Arrows once the lights go out on Sunday.

Join us tomorrow at 8am ET on NBC Sports Live Extra from the final free practice session, which will be followed by qualifying on CNBC from 11am ET.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”