Hamilton: 'Currently Ferrari are quickest'

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain is overtaken by teammate Valtteri Bottas of Finland, left, during the second practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, April 14, 2017.

Indeed Hamilton was only a surprise fifth fastest, but a scrappy lap and then heavy traffic on his next run, suggests Britain's triple world champion has time in his pocket ahead of qualifying later today.

Vettel finished just 0.041 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas under the lights of the Sakhir Circuit, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in third and Hamilton, a victor last time out in China, only fifth.

"I got screwed, the rear tyres were too cold to prepare the lap", said Verstappen who finished in P6.

The rivalry with Verstappen, considered potentially the most explosive in the sport with two race winners vying to be top dog, is bubbling along nicely but without any sign of looming flare-ups.

Asked about the incident with Hulkenberg, which was investigated by the stewards but did not result in a penalty, Hamilton added: "There's not really much to say".

Hamilton won in Bahrain in 2014 and 2015, on his way to his second and third world titles with Mercedes.

Australia's Daniel Ricciardo was the third quickest man on track on the opening day behind Vettel and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

Quickest in FP3 was Red Bull's Max Verstappen, whose fast lap of 1:32.194 was.110 of a second better than the next best time set by Hamilton. "The vehicle feels good on one lap, I think it was quite OK, long run I think we might be a bit behind".

And the 86-year-old watched on from the confines of the Red Bull motorhome - first with team principal Christian Horner and then Niki Lauda, Mercedes' non-executive chairman - before being swept out of the paddock on the back of a golf buggy.

There is little to separate them and they are clearly relishing the battle. Hamilton was second, Vettel claimed the final spot on the podium.

Felipe Massa was eighth for Williams ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas and Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault.

Five drivers are eliminated from the first two parts of qualifying - Q3 and Q2 - to leave the best 10 in Q1.

Vettel was unsure as to why Ferrari lost time on their rivals.

McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne's session was cut short by an engine problem, which will be a cause of frustration for his team.

Carlos Sainz was the only driver to stop on track during the session as he pulled over at Turn 11 with smoke coming from the auto.

However, temperatures will be considerably lower for Sunday's race, which starts in the evening and finishes under floodlights.

  • Zachary Reyes