Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the fastest time to lead the way in the first practice session for Formula 1's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Dutchman turned in a 1m31.394s on Soft tyres to continue Red Bull’s strong form off the back of pre-season testing to head Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by 0.298s. Lando Norris was an encouraging third-fastest for McLaren.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton finished the opening practice session of the 2021 season more than half a second down on Verstappen in P4 as he begins his bid to win a record-breaking eighth world title.

With F1 shortening Friday practice sessions from 90 minutes to just one hour of running for this season, the teams carried out busier-than-usual run programmes following a cutback three days of winter testing.

FP1 is less representative than the second practice session on Friday given that it takes place during the heat of the day, with FP2 better reflecting the conditions of qualifying and the race.

Less than a tenth behind Hamilton came Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who outpaced new Red Bull recruit Sergio Perez, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Scuderia teammate Carlos Sainz.

Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top-10 for McLaren and Alfa Romeo respectively, with the latter some 1.3s down on Verstappen’s benchmark.

Sebastian Vettel edged out Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll to take 12th place, while returning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was only 16th fastest and slower than Esteban Ocon as Alpine concentrated on gathering aero data.

On the weekend he makes his F1 debut, Mick Schumacher turned in a lap that was nearly half a second quicker than teammate Nikita Mazepin as the Haas rookie duo propped up the timesheets in 19th and 20th.




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