GP2 cars on Senna's pace (GMM) Commentators for GP2 qualifying in Bahrain on Saturday were keeping a close eye on the lap time 2m7s.
The reason was that the junior racers were tantalizingly close to eclipsing the best time set by F1 rookie Bruno Senna in the second Friday practice session.
Before a mechanical problem ended his shakedown in the HRT, whose Italian constructor Dallara also makes the GP2 cars, he was circulating an immense 12 seconds off the pace -- 5 seconds behind the next-slowest Virgin cars.
There are rumors that F1 will soon revive the 107 per cent qualifying rule, in which case the new Spanish team could be in trouble.
Senna's rookie teammate Karun Chandhok failed to make it onto the track at all throughout Friday's 180 minutes of practice.
"We can't seem to get the clutch and gearbox working the right way," said the Indian.
Having a better day on Friday was Mercedes GP, whose Nico Rosberg topped the afternoon timesheet. In both sessions, Michael Schumacher was not as fast as the sister W01.
Asked if the car is ready to win races, test driver Nick Heidfeld told Germany's Sky: "It's hard to say yet, even if it is our goal for the season.
"Whether we can do it from the outset, I think we will find out on Saturday afternoon," said the German.
Force India's Adrian Sutil had been the morning's fastest, but he too was cautious: "Only after two or three races will we know where we really stand."