Formula One: Lewis Hamilton handed five-place grid penalty for Bahrain

Although there was little the Silver Arrows could have done about the circumstances that allowed Vettel to take the initiative two weeks ago, not converting pole position into a win would have stung Hamilton. "That was a lion lap".

That put him just ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who has a five-place grid penalty so is set to line up ninth.

On a demanding track that has four long straights, Ferrari may have a power advantage, but both of the leading teams will be aware of the threat from Red Bull whose Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap in Melbourne on his way to third.

The Renault driver was just 0.012s clear of Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly, who looks surprisingly quick in the Honda-powered STR13 this weekend.

Hamilton was only fifth and fourth respectively in Friday's two practice sessions with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen setting the overall pace.

Hamilton was in total control of the season-opening Australian grand prix a fortnight ago before a loss of time under the virtual safety auto allowed Sebastian Vettel to snatch the win for Ferrari.

"If you look at the pace - testing, first race - it is very clear Mercedes is the fastest, by a 0.3-0.4-second gap", Vettel, also a four-time world champion, said.

After being outmaneuvered by Ferrari in the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes have a point to prove in the second race of the Formula 1 season in Bahrain.

Verstappen and Bottas both used soft tyres for the final few minutes of the second practice session, while Raikkonen was on the supersoft for Ferrari.

Renault finished the session as the fourth best team with Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz split by 0.056s in seventh and eighth place.

The pressure will be on Bottas to fly the German manufacturer's flag against the Italian team in Sunday's race, a tough task after the pace they showed in practice.

Mr. Hamilton still enjoyed an advantage of more than 0.6s in qualifying and was comfortably quicker in the race as well until a mid-race safety vehicle handed Mr. Vettel the Chequered Flag.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson failed to improve on his third and final Q1 run and ended up 17th ahead of Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin, who had to rely on his first-run time.

The event will take place at the Mercedes stand at BIC's Formula 1 Village vending area.

Gasly was running a new aerodynamic part on his vehicle, but team-mate Brendon Hartley was not, and was 12 places behind the Frenchman in 20th.

You would be a fool not to count him out for at least a podium and if luck should go his way as it did with Vettel in Melbourne, you never know what might happen.

Hartley, Verstappen and Force India's Sergio Perez were then eliminated from Q2, along with Fernando Alonso and his McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Friday's two 90-minute sessions were relatively uneventful although Bottas, on a slow lap, nearly collided with Ricciardo who was going quickly.

  • Julie Sanders