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Championship leader Nico Rosberg headed up a dominant Mercedes 1-2 ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton in first free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix as both drivers exercised a huge margin over the competition.

With FP1 beginning under unusually grey skies and in modest temperatures, Rosberg and Hamilton were the last drivers to venture onto track but wasted no time in asserting Mercedes' authority with rapid opening efforts.

Improving the benchmark to 1min 32.294secs, Rosberg commanded an impressive half-second advantage over Hamilton by the chequered flag, but it was the mammoth 1.8secs margin back to third place Kimi Raikkkonen in the Ferrari that proved telling.

Even so, as one of the few sessions to take place under natural light, circuit conditions are likely to change over the course of the weekend, while no teams tried the super-soft tyres.

More than two seconds behind Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat followed up in fourth and fifth for Red Bull, ahead of top Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg and the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

Looking to build on Haas' impressive Australia debut, Romain Grosjean was ninth quickest, with Williams' Felipe Massa rounding out the top ten.

Further back, Stoffel Vandoorne turned his first wheel in the McLaren-Honda MP4-31, ending his first F1 practice session - after a trip off the track - a modest 18th with a lap time set on the medium tyre, nine tenths adrift of 14th place team-mate Jenson Button.

Elsewhere, Pascal Wehrlein was a noteworthy 17th in the Manor, faster than the Sauber of Felipe Nasr and the Renault of Jolyon Palmer, as well as the Force India of Alfonso Celis, the young Mexican completing his first FP1 session in 21st place after his own trip across the gravel trap.



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