Bahrain Practice 1: Massa and Alonso set the early pace

Felipe Massa topped the timing sheets at the end of FP1 in Bahrain

Felipe Massa topped the timing sheets at the end of FP1 in Bahrain

Felipe Massa has won the Bahrain Grand Prix on two occasions – 2007 and 2008 – and started his weekend at Sakhir in the best way possible, by setting the fastest time in free practice one, ahead of Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso and best of the rest Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Ferrari have in fact been victorious on the island Kingdom four times since the first race in 2004, more than any other team and Alonso famously won his first ever race as a Ferrari driver at the venue back in 2010.

On Friday, at the end of the first ninety minutes on a very green track, Massa’s best of 1:34.487 was a mere 0.077 better than Shanghai winner Alonso. The top six were separated by just over a half a second, while the top ten were covered by a second – it is still very tight at the top.

Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg was third quickest

Behind Rosberg was last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel in fourth at the wheel of the Red Bull and best of the Renault powered brigade, his teammate Mark Webber was seventh.

Force India continued to impress and are clearly the in form midfield squad, with Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil fifth and eighth respectively.

McLaren will be buoyed by the early pace shown by Jenson Button in the under-performing MP4-28, but his teammate Sergio Perez could only manage the 11th best time, which half a second shy of Button’s best.

The Lotus pair, particularly Kimi Raikkonen, were down the order with the Finn ninth on the timing sheets, ahead of Romain Grosjean with the tenth best time.

Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen back in a F1 car

Lewis Hamilton was also lower on the timing screens than expected, although Mercedes appeared to have him on long run duties. He ended the session 13th.

Heikki Kovalainen was back in the cockpit for Caterham on his first day as their ‘new’ reserve driver, and no doubt rusty since he last drove an F1 car at the Brazilian GP last November. He finished the session 20th, with teammate Charles Pic in 19th. Giedo van der Garde sat out the session.

Jules Bianchi sat out the session as Marussia gave Rodolfo Gonazalez a run in FP1. He was slowest of all.

Friday Free Practice 1 Result, Bahrain International Circuit – Friday, 19 April 2013 

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.487 11
2 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.564 0.077 19
3 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.621 0.134 22
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.790 0.303 20
5 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:34.949 0.462 17
6 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.069 0.582 22
7 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:35.101 0.614 19
8 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:35.119 0.632 19
9 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:35.345 0.858 17
10 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:35.611 1.124 14
11 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.640 1.153 23
12 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:35.783 1.296 16
13 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.792 1.305 16
14 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:36.014 1.527 19
15 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:36.485 1.998 20
16 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:36.498 2.011 17
17 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.755 2.268 20
18 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.214 2.727 21
19 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:37.850 3.363 20
20 21 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1:38.401 3.914 20
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.445 4.958 12
22 22 Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.215 5.728 7