Felipe Massa leads a Ferrari 1-2 after opening practice at Bahrain

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Felipe Massa has ended the opening practice session fastest for Ferrari in preparation for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in what was a Scuderia 1-2 at the top. Nico Rosberg finished 3rd fastest behind the Ferrari duo for Mercedes, only a tenth behind the pairing.

Amid continued controversy pertaining to the sport’s involvement in the Kingdom, the opening practice session for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix began in hot conditions around the dusty Bahrain International Circuit. Two driver changes occurred for the opening practice session, as Heikki Kovalainen made a return to the sport with Caterham replacing Giedo van der Garde and former GP2 Series driver Rodolfo Gonzalez replacing Jules Bianchi at Marussia.

Rookie Esteban Gutierrez became the first driver to take to the track for Sauber as the 90-minute session got underway, and was quickly followed out by the likes of Max Chilton and Jenson Button. Naturally the majority of the field elected to carry out installation laps early on, with Nico Hulkenberg eventually setting the first timed lap of the session with a 01:42.500 for the Swiss outfit. The German driver was able to improve upon his time at the top with a 01:40.521, before his team-mate of Esteban Gutierrez momentarily rose to the top. However, Sauber’s reign over proceedings was quickly shattered as Kimi Raikkonen obliterated the timing screens with a 01:35.533.

The Finn, who nearly took victory at Bahrain last season, quickly improved upon his time at the top as more drivers began to take to the Bahrain International Circuit as the session wore on. Jenson Button rose to the top for McLaren, before the Force India of Adrian Sutil continued to impress on his return to the sport with a 01:35.119 which saw him storm to the top of the timing sheets for the Silverstone-based outfit. However, reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel soon asserted his authority over proceedings with a 01:34.978, confirming reports that Red Bull could well be the team to beat once again this weekend.

As the opening practice session wore on, Nico Rosberg rose to the top for Mercedes as the majority of the field continued their preparations for the remainder of the weekend. Fernando Alonso soon powered Ferrari to the sharp-end of the timing sheets with a 01:34.564, before Felipe Massa impressed many with a competitive 01:34.487 to dispose of his team-mate and shoot to the top. In the dying minutes of the session, many drivers including the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez ran exceedingly wide as they pushed to the limits around the Bahrain International Circuit.

Rodolfo Gonzalez’s first official practice session was brought to a premature conclusion with only several minutes remaining in the session, with the Venezuelan’s Marussia machine struck with a gearbox issue. The car was therefore stripped down by the mechanics as they strove to fix the issue, with the same car expected to power Jules Bianchi later in the day during the second practice session. Despite his wealth of knowledge within Formula 1, Charles Pic managed to finish ahead of Heikki Kovalainen at Caterham.

Felipe Massa’s time at the top remained unbeaten as the opening session drew to a conclusion, with Fernando Alonso making it a Scuderia 1-2 at the top ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. With many mistakes made during the closing stages of the session, the drivers will undoubtedly be eager to return to the Bahrain International Circuit later in the day for the second practice session as preparations continue for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pos Driver                Team                  Time      Gap       Laps
 1. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m34.487s            11
 2. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m34.564s  + 0.077s  19
 3. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m34.621s  + 0.134s  22
 4. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m34.790s  + 0.303s  20
 5. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m34.949s  + 0.462s  17
 6. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m35.069s  + 0.582s  22
 7. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m35.101s  + 0.614s  19
 8. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1m35.119s  + 0.632s  19
 9. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m35.345s  + 0.858s  17
10. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m35.611s  + 1.124s  14
11. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes      1m35.640s  + 1.153s  23
12. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1m35.783s  + 1.296s  16
13. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes              1m35.792s  + 1.305s  16
14. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m36.014s  + 1.527s  19
15. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m36.485s  + 1.998s  20
16. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m36.498s  + 2.011s  17
17. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari        1m36.755s  + 2.268s  20
18. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari        1m37.214s  + 2.727s  21
19. Charles Pic           Caterham-Renault      1m37.850s  + 3.363s  20
20. Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m38.401s  + 3.914s  20
21. Max Chilton           Marussia-Cosworth     1m39.445s  + 4.958s  12
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez      Marussia-Cosworth     1m40.215s  + 5.728s   7

Picture Copyright © Octane Photographics

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