There were mixed fortunes for Ferrari as the action got underway in Bahrain on Friday afternoon. Joint championship leader Sebastian Vettel was comfortably quickest, but team mate Kimi Raikkonen clocked just six laps before his identical SF70H stopped because of an overheated turbo.
In temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were second and third quickest respectively for Red Bull, with Force India’s Sergio Perez fourth and the Williams of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll completing the top six.
Current constructors’ championship leaders Mercedes ended up 10th and 14th with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – the world champions choosing to use their soft tyres early in a session that saw rapid track evolution as more rubber was laid down.
In the early stages, the Silver Arrows had set the pace. Indeed Vettel, running a new front wing and cooling arrangements, was two-tenths back of Hamilton’s best time on Pirelli’s mediums – 1m 36.708s to 1m 36.934s. The German worked down to 1m 32.697s on the softs later in the session however.
Raikkonen meanwhile barely got going. The Finn was at the bottom of the timesheets for the first half hour, and soon after he had finally ventured out to seek a lap time he rolled to a halt at Turn 13 with 52 minutes left to run. He wandered disconsolately into the desert as he made his way back to the pits on foot, but was met partway by an appositely red-painted scooter.
The 2007 world champion wasn’t the only one to end his session early – Stoffel Vandoorne parked up his McLaren at Turn 10 after a suspected ERS issue, while Massa ended his running prematurely after suffering a lairy spin at Turn 13 – the result, according to the Brazilian, of a brake issue.
Elsewhere, Force India’s Esteban Ocon continued to impress with 1m 34.332s for seventh, just ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Romain Grosjean wasn’t entirely happy with the balance of his Haas but finished just ahead of Hamilton in ninth.
Renault struggled again, with Nico Hulkenberg losing time en route to 12th after running wide at the final corner, and a fluctuating MGU-K and a faulty DRS hampering Jolyon Palmer on his way to 15th. It was a tight midfield though, with just 1s covering Perez in fourth down to Palmer.
Pascal Wehrlein looked comfortable on his return to the Sauber cockpit, lapping his Sauber C36 in 1m 35.959s to team mate Marcus Ericsson’s 1m 35.888s. Those times were however only good enough to leave the Swiss team 17th and 18th on the timesheet.
Friday’s second practice session begins at 1800 hours local time – the same time as qualifying and the race – so we should see much more representative running in what are expected to be much cooler conditions.