Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was three tenths faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in the first practice session ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Australian set his fastest time on the soft tyre to outpace the Finn.
The first practice session in Bahrain isn’t the most representative of the rest of the weekend with Practice One held in the early afternoon while Sunday’s grand prix will be a full night race. Red Bull are expecting to be a challenger to Mercedes and Ferrari, with Ricciardo proving that the Red Bull has the pace to challenge the two top teams.
Before Bottas and then Ricciardo went fastest, it was Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen who lead the times. The Finn was one second faster than his teammate, four time champion Lewis Hamilton who appeared to struggle with the handling of his Mercedes.
It was a difficult start for Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen, the Dutchman suffered a loss of power before he managed to set a time. His car stopped at the exit of turn fifteen, then the Dutchman pushed his Red Bull into the pit lane.
The top three teams did not set there fastest times on the softest compounds of tyre. The impressive start to the season continued for Haas’s Roman Grosjean who was almost one and half seconds off Ricciardo.
The Frenchman will want to gain decent points this weekend after the American team failed to score a decent number of points in Melbourne thanks to mistakes in the pit stops.
Despite bringing a major upgrade for this weekend, both McLaren’s were outside the top ten. Fernando Alonso could only go eleventh fastest and his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was thirteenth.
Pierre Gasly who had new Honda parts after his Australia DNF, was seventh, ahead of Carlos Sainz, who had complained early in the session his car was “an absolute mess”. Gasly himself had problems with the traction of the car but managed to set a time for seventh fastest.
Force India’s struggles continued with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon propping up the timesheets for the team which finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship last season. Williams also struggled, Lance Stroll could only manage fourteenth and his teammate Sergey Sirotkin was fifteenth.