Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo edged a tight battle for early supremacy in Bahrain, beating rivals Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen by over three tenths of a second in the opening practice session at the Bahrain International Crciut.
While the opening session at the Gulf circuit is notoriously unreliable due to its daylight timing ahead of a night race, Ricciardo will take confidence from his late charge up the leaderboard.
After an early run on medium tyres, the Australian spent the bulk of the session in the garage but bolted on a set of soft tyres towards the end of running and 15 minutes before the end of the session vaulted to the top of the order with a time of 1:31.060.
That displaced previous fastest man Bottas, who ended the session 0.304 down on the Red Bull driver. Räikkönen got closes to the top two with a time of 1:31.458 to finish just under four tenths adrift of Ricciardo. The Finn finished 0.012s ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, with Lewis Hamilton taking fifth spot in the second Mercedes.
Ricciardo’s lap put a gloss on what was shaping up to be a disappointing session for Red Bull who lost Max Verstappen to a power failure early in the session. The Dutchman slowed dramatically during an early run and tried to roll his RB14 back to the pit, but was eventually forced to pull over at the of the track. His car was recovered to the Red Bull garage but he played no further part in the session
Behind the top three teams, Haas finished the session as best of the rest, with Romain Grosjean 1.4s off the pace in sixth place and teammate Kevin Magnussen ninth.
Pierre Gasly was seventh for Toro Rosso, just 0.263s behind Grosjean and just over a tenth of a second ahead of the eighth-placed Renault of former Toro Rosso man Carlos Sainz.
The bonus for the Italian squad was that Gasly set his best time on soft tyres, while a number of drivers, including Sainz and 10th-placed Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, used the red-banded supersoft tyres to set their best times.
2018 Bahrain Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 14 1:31.060
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 24 1:31.364 0.304
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 18 1:31.458 0.398
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 17 1:31.470 0.410
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1:32.272 1.212
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 23 1:32.516 1.456
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 26 1:32.779 1.719
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 21 1:32.885 1.825
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 19 1:32.971 1.911
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 18 1:33.104 2.044
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 24 1:33.223 2.163
12 Charles Leclerc Sauber 20 1:33.278 2.218
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 25 1:33.364 2.304
14 Lance Stroll Williams 22 1:33.379 2.319
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 29 1:33.467 2.407
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 27 1:33.497 2.437
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 22 1:33.508 2.448
18 Sergio Perez Force India 26 1:33.662 2.602
19 Esteban Ocon Force India 23 1:33.794 2.734
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 2