Daniel Ricciardo was the pacesetter in the opening practice session of the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix, putting his Red Bull Racing entry ahead of a tight Mercedes/Ferrari scrap.

The Australian moved to the top of the timesheets late in the afternoon’s 90-minute session at the Sakhir circuit, posting a lap three-tenths of a second quicker than Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fourth-fastest in the second Ferrari with a lap just 0.012 seconds slower than his teammate.

With the hot afternoon track not going to reflect the floodlit conditions during which Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race will be held, the final results of the session will not serve as a useful form guide. Knowing this, a number of teams opted to limit their running to preserve their cars and available tyre sets.

These circumstances proved both a blessing and a curse for the sister Red Bull of Max Verstappen, whose car suffered a loss of power early on. The Dutch driver tried to limp back to the pits, but his RB14 stopped just short of pit entry and he had to help the marshals push his stricken car back to the garages. He took no further part in the session while the issue was investigated.

The midway point of the session saw the two Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Bottas trading fastest laps, with the Briton on top with a 1:32.532 time. The pair bolted on new sets of Soft tyres, but Hamilton made a mistake on his first run and despite improving on his second flying lap he fell almost a second short of the 1:31.364 effort Bottas managed to provisionally claim top spot.

The two Ferraris followed suit on their own Soft tyre runs with 20 minutes of the session to go, with Räikkönen and Vettel slotting themselves between the two Mercedes on the timesheets.

Following a lengthy stint in the garage after his early outing on the Medium compound tyres, Ricciardo then had a run on Soft tyres and vaulted to the top of the timing screens with a 1:31.060 effort.

The ‘best of the rest’ honours went to Haas, which briefly held top spot on the time sheets. Romain Grosjean was sixth-fastest, 1.4 seconds off the ultimate pace, with teammate Kevin Magnussen ninth-quickest. Both drivers’ fastest laps were posted on the Suprtsoft tyre compound.

Pierre Gasly overcame initial concerns about a lack of traction to put his Toro Rosso Honda an unexpected seventh-fastest on Soft tyres. The Red Bull junior team arrived at Bahrain with updated power unit parts from Honda, designed to counter the turbo and MGU-H issues it experienced at the preceding Australian Grand Prix.

The Frenchman outpaced a number of Supersoft-shod runners, including the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hülkenberg – who were eighth- and tenth-fastest respectively) and both McLaren drivers.

Another surprise performer was Sauber rookie Charles Leclerc, who overcame a spin early in the session at Turn 89 to finish twelfth-fastest on Soft tyres and split the Supersoft shod McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. The Monégasque driver’s C37 was fitted with a number of aerodynamic upgrades originally slated for the Australian Grand Prix.

Leclerc wasn’t the only driver to have a moment at the tricky Turn 9 left-hander, with Williams driver Lance Stroll also looping his FW41 early in the session. The Canadian youngster finished the session fourteenth-fastest, less than one-tenth clear of teammate Sergey Sirotkin.

Friday’s second practice session takes place at 18:00 local time (GMT +3) under floodlights, where the teams are expected to run high mileage to sort out their set-ups for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s 57-lap race.

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:31.060 14
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:31.364 + 0.304 24
3. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:31.458 + 0.398 18
4. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:31.470 + 0.410 17
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:32.272 + 1.212 21
6. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:32.516 + 1.456 23
7. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:32.779 + 1.719 26
8. Carlos Sainz Jr Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:32.885 + 1.825 21
9. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:32.971 + 1.911 19
10. Nico Hülkenberg Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:33.104 + 2.044 18
11. Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:33.223 + 2.163 24
12. Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:33.278 + 2.218 20
13. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:33.364 + 2.314 25
14. Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:33.379 + 2.319 22
15. Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:33.467 + 2.407 29
16. Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:33.497 + 2.437 27
17. Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:33.508 + 2.448 22
18. Sergio Pérez Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:33.662 + 2.602 26
19. Esteban Ocon Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:33.794 + 2.734 23
20. Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 no time 2

Image via Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.