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

1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:32.697   21
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:33.097 +0.400s 22
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:33.566 +0.869s 23
4 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.095 +1.398s 22
5 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:34.246 +1.549s 24
6 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:34.322 +1.625s 25
7 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.332 +1.635s 23
8 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:34.372 +1.675s 14
9 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:34.564 +1.867s 21
10 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.636 +1.939s 28
11 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 1:34.838 +2.141s 13
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.927 +2.230s 13
13 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:34.997 +2.300s 10
14 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:35.002 +2.305s 27
15 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:35.068 +2.371s 19
16 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:35.579 +2.882s 21
17 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.888 +3.191s 24
18 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.959 +3.262s 23
19 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:36.079 +3.382s 16
20 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:42.333 +9.636s 6