Ricciardo fastest in 1st Bahrain practice

Fernando Alonso

Defending champion Hamilton was bidding to get his title charge back on track this weekend after losing out to Vettel at the season opener in Australia a fortnight ago. He was 0.3 seconds quicker than Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and 0.4 ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, whose teammate Sebastian Vettel placed fourth.

It all leads up to Sunday's race, which starts at 4.10pm BST and where Hamilton and Vettel will again expect to lead the pack.

The Australian clocked 1 minute, 31.06 seconds on the 5.4-kilometer (3.3-mile) desert circuit.

"Although we were untroubled by any reliability issues, and we ran through our programme as expected, it wasn't our best day from a performance point of view", said Mercedes technical head James Allison.

"For such a short time in the auto I managed to find quite a good balance and the long run pace looked pretty positive", said the Dutchman.

The Finn was summoned to the stewards afterwards for an unsafe release from the pits but escaped a grid penalty with Ferrari picking up a 5,000 euro (US$6,136.50) fine instead for the misdemeanour.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo put Red Bull at the top of the timesheets at the end of Friday's opening practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.

His best effort on Friday was 0.655 seconds slower than Raikkonen, however, with at least some of that down to the 33-year-old running into traffic on his flying lap.

Verstappen's vehicle ground to a halt on the final strait, and his humiliation was complete when he had to push the Red Bull - with the help of the martials - back to the garage amid 30 degree heat in the Gulf desert. He got out and helped stewards wheel it back to the team garage.

"It was not ideal to miss so much track time".

"For such a short time in the auto I managed to find quite a good balance and the long run pace looked pretty positive".

Verstappen believes strategy will play a big role in the race on Sunday and thinks that they only need to sort out their short run pace in third practice. "I'll try to improve the feeling and balance to put myself in the best position possible".

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