FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton was only fourth fastest in second practice for the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg set the afternoon pace in the island kingdom.

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2012 Bahrain Grand Prix technical specifications

* Race distance: 57 laps (191.539 miles/308.238km)

* Start time: 15:00 (local)/12:00 GMT

* Circuit length: 3.363 miles/5.412km

* 2010 winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

* 2010 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)

* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2004)

The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 star from Hertfordshire clocked a best lap of 1m 33.747s in P2 around the challenging Bahrain International Circuit today (Friday).

That was almost a second slower than last Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg, who recorded a 1m 32.816s for Mercedes.

Hamilton had earlier posted the fastest time in the opening practice session.

The Red Bull Racing pairing of Mark Webber and reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel were second and third fastest in second practice.

The second Mercedes of Michael Schumacher was fifth with Hamilton’s McLaren colleague Jenson Button sixth on the timesheets in the afternoon with a 1m 34.246s.

“Wind direction played a huge role today,” admitted Herts-born Hamilton after practice.

“On one lap, there’d be a headwind going into Turn Four, the next lap, it’d be a tailwind, then a crosswind. And that makes a big difference around the circuit.

“I think my fastest lap was set half an hour after Nico [Rosberg] set the fastest time of the session, and the wind was very different.”

Red Bull’s resurgence, however, has been noted by bookmakers, with William Hill offering 10/1 that the two cars start on the front row of the grid, 11/8 that one does and 8/11 that none do.

Rosberg set the fastest lap in practice by 0.5s and Hills are offering 6/1 that the winning margin in qualifying is above this.

“The Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren cars showed flashes of what can happen around this track and we could be in for the most exciting qualifying of the year so far,” said Hill’s spokesman Joe Crilly.

Hamilton has been shaved slightly to make him 7/4 to set the fastest time in qualifying, with Rosberg 15/8, Michael Schumacher 5/1 and Button 11/1.

The 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix is due to start at 1pm BST on Sunday.

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