Charles Leclerc was fastest for Ferrari in the first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Monacan outpaced his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel by two-tenths of a second with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas third.
Its an encouraging start for the team after they were well of the pace in the season opener in Melbourne where they were beaten by the Finn. Mercedes meanwhile was almost a second off during the afternoon session the championship leader nine tenths off.
It wasn’t plain sailing for champion Lewis Hamilton, the Englishman ran wide on his fastest lap meaning he was over a second off the pace. But, Mercedes are expected to be closer in FP2, qualifying and the race as track conditions are not representative of those in the race.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fifth fastest ahead of his teammate Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman complained that the car was “super-oversteery” on the apex of corners on the hard tyre and asking the team to check the engine braking settings. But he managed to go sixth, two tenths off his teammate.
Carlos Sainz was the midfield leader going seventh, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.
As it has been since testing the midfield was ultra-tight, Sainz put his time in late to leapfrog Hulkenberg. But it wasn’t a straight forward afternoon, the German collided with the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo was eleventh.
Giovinazzi appeared to have been blocked by the Renault at the previous corner, Giovinazzi appeared to have raised his hand to gesture at the Renault driver when they touched, with Hulkenberg clearly not expecting him to be there.
Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten.
Ricciardo has been forced into a chassis change, following the first-lap damage he suffered in Melbourne. But he will be hoping to make further progress through the weekend, as Renault is believed to have a stronger car than their midfield rivals.
The only on track drama came from the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, the Canadian lost control of the car at Turn Four and damaged his front wing as he hit the wall.
Alex Albon was thirteenth for Toro Rosso and Lando Norris 15th in his McLaren, while Williams once again propped up the timesheets.
Williams again was over a half a second off the Racing Point of Stroll who ended the session eighteenth, George Russell going nineteenth with teammate Robert Kubica was just six hundredths behind him.
In response to the poor start to the season, the team has announced that the team’s co-founder and former technical director Sir Patrick Head will take more active role to advise the team. He resigned from the team in 2013 but remains on the board.