Ferrari first and last in Bahrain practice

The question of who will land the next blow in the championship battle when it resumes in Bahrain on Sunday was driven clear out of the Formula One circus' mind by Fernando Alonso's shock decision to race in the Indy 500 instead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Ricciardo said he was pleased with his showing after a frustrating non-finish in his home Australian event and missing out on a podium in China where he was beaten to third by 19-year-old Verstappen. They have a proven victor with four-time champion Vettel, and just four drivers in the history of the sport can trump Hamilton's three titles - Alain Prost (4), Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7) are the others.

McLaren's Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, who scored a point in Bahrain a year ago as a stand-in, had a troubled day and stopped on track with engine problems 21 minutes from the end of the first session.

Ferrari's Vettel won the season-opener in warm Australia from Hamilton while the Mercedes driver turned the tide in cooler China to beat the German for first place. This is a turn from the last couple years of racing, which has been dominated by Mercedes.

The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) hosted its Inaugural Grand Prix in Y 2004, marking the 1st round of the FIA Formula One World Championship to be staged in the Middle East.

After three highly competitive and often acrimonious years competing with now retired 2016 champion and former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, the Englishman is relishing a different kind of challenge this year.

All three evening F1 races feature two practice sessions in daylight, with the same timetable format applied in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

For McLaren's part, letting Alonso race at Indy could strengthen their hand in negotiations as they attempt to hang on to him beyond the end of this season when his contract expires. "Track is normally dirty in FP1 also due to sand from surrounding desert".

After the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes admitted that Ferrari were simply the faster vehicle and there was nothing they could do about that. The importance of the timing lies in the fact that a driver can drive more quickly and with less tire degradation if they are in clean air, as opposed to when trailing directly behind one or more cars.

Hamilton was unhappy with Hulkenberg being in the way while on a slow lap, saying "these drivers are just so unsafe", over the radio.

"Lewis has had the best vehicle". But the racing around the wide sweeps and long straights of the Shanghai circuit, which past year saw more overtaking than any other with 128 passes, put those worries to rest. On top of that, they now have a new major rivalry brewing.

The drivers will take to the track for the second time later in the day.

The pattern of the season so far in qualifying has been Hamilton on pole by a small margin, with Vettel and Bottas second and third separated by thousandths of a second.

  • Julie Sanders