Vettel fastest in 1st session at Bahrain GP; Hamilton 10th

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland takes a curve during the first practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir Bahrain Friday

In fact, Bottas says that he is happy with his progress so far, even if he initially struggled to cope with the anger of spinning behind the safety vehicle in China.

Bottas" lap was comfortably faster than Rosberg's pole time a year ago of 1:29.493, but the overall speed of the new era "fatter-and-faster' machines was less notable in the desert heat than it had been at the two previous races.

Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who shares the leadership of this year's embryonic title race with Vettel, was down in 10th for Mercedes, the champion team not attempting to deliver its best in scorching hot conditions.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the four-time champion who won the opening race in Australia and had been on the front row for the first two races, was third fastest after dominating Friday practice. But it is really involved with how good the vehicle is - I am 100% sure that if I had the same auto as Lewis and Seb for sure I would be challenging them really hard. "I don't know how much they can improve tomorrow, but I know how much we can improve from today".

The second session is the only representative running teams get before qualifying on Saturday as it starts at 18:00 local time and ends after dark.

Valtteri Bottas has said that he is staying calm, despite being outperformed in his first two races since switching to Mercedes. "Four tenths was a lot more than I expected, given how good the lap felt". We will plan a good strategy but good place to start. The air temperature was down to 29 degrees Celsius and the track 31, down by six and eight degrees respectively compared to the earlier free practice session.

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As the rest of the field switched to softs, Williams driver Lance Stroll, with a 1m34.895s, and then Force India's Sergio Perez, with a 1m34.322s, both had stints at the top of the timesheets.

Fresh from announcing his decision to race at this year's Indy 500, Fernando Alonso was eighth fastest in the McLaren despite completing just 14 laps.

Another impressive lap from Hulkenberg secured him the fifth-best lap and a place in the shootout for Renault.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his auto during the first practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, April 14, 2017.

As the shootout began, the Red Bulls led the two Mercedes out for their final flurry, Ricciardo starting with a 1:30.007. "Today he was just quicker, he did the better job, so hat off to him", Hamilton said.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was a bit disappointed with third.

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