Bahrain FP1: Vettel tops as Mercedes cruise

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets as practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix got underway at the Sakhir Circuit, with the German finishing four tenths of a second clear of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

It wasn’t a wholly successful session for Ferrari, however, with Kimi Räikkönen stopping on track early in the session with smoke rising from the back of his car. It left the Italian squad book-ending the timing, with Räikkönen 20th and last on the sheet.

Vettel’s P1 time of 1:32.697, was set using Pirelli soft tyres, came with around half and hour left in a mid-afternoon session conducted in high temperatures.

The German was followed by Ricciardo whose best time was a 1:33.097 that left him exactly four tenths of a second adrift of the Ferrari man. Ricciardo’s lap was good enough, however, to put him almost half a second clear of team-mate Max Verstappen.

Mercedes, meanwhile, had a low-key start to the weekend with Lewis Hamilton tenth quickest and Valtteri Bottas down in 14th place. Hamilton briefly held sway with an early run on softs, set during the hottest part of the session, but gradually slipped down the order as the track improved.

Fourth place in the session went to Force India’s Sergio Pérez – best of the Mercedes powered brigade – who finished 1.398 seconds behind pacesetter Vettel. The Mexican was 0.151 of a second clear of Williams’ Felipe Massa while team-mate Lance Stroll was eight seven hundredths of second further back in sixth place.

Seventh place went to the second Force India of Esteban Ocon, while Fernando Alonso, who on Wednesday revealed that he is to contest this year’s Indianapolis 500 over competing at the Monaco Grand Prix, was eighth for McLaren. Romain Grosjean was ninth for Haas, ahead of Hamilton.

Räikkönen’s woes came on his seventh lap on track when he slowed and stopped just after Turn 13, with smoke pouring from the back of his car. Ferrari later reported that the Finn’s car had suffered an overheating issue with the turbo.

Räikkönen was not the only driver to be sidelined by an engine issue. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also stopped out on track when his engine cut out after 10 laps. He finished with the session’s 13th fastest time.

Elsewhere, Pascal Wehrlein made his first appearance on track since FP2 at the Australian Grand Prix after which he complained of a lack of fitness following a pre-season crash at the Race of Champions. On his return to the cockpit with Sauber he finished in 18th place, seven hundredths of a second behind team-mate Marcus Ericsson.

Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir – Free Practice 1, Best Lap Times

15Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:32.697 21
23Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:33.097+0.400s22
333Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:33.566+0.869s23
411Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:34.095+1.398s22
519Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:34.246+1.549s24
618Lance StrollWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:34.322+1.625s25
731Esteban OconFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:34.332+1.635s23
814Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA1:34.372+1.675s14
98Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:34.564+1.867s21
1044Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:34.636+1.939s28
1126Daniil KvyatTORO ROSSO1:34.838+2.141s13
1227Nico HulkenbergRENAULT1:34.927+2.230s13
132Stoffel VandoorneMCLAREN HONDA1:34.997+2.300s10
1477Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:35.002+2.305s27
1530Jolyon PalmerRENAULT1:35.068+2.371s19
1620Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:35.579+2.882s21
179Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI1:35.888+3.191s24
1894Pascal WehrleinSAUBER FERRARI1:35.959+3.262s23
1955Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO1:36.079+3.382s16
207Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI1:42.333+9.636s6