What we learned from Friday at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Reports of Ferrari's demise may have been premature in Australia as the red cars ended Friday practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix with a healthy advantage over the rest of the field. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc each topped a session on Friday, with Mercedes failing to get within half a second of their best times.
While the Silver Arrows were dominant last time out in Australia, Ferrari were expected to gain ground in Sakhir – a track much more similar to Barcelona, where they looked so strong in pre-season.
And Ferrari made good on those expectations, with Vettel six tenths clear of Lewis Hamilton on qualifying simulations and a further tenth clear of Melbourne winner Valtteri Bottas, with Leclerc close by in second.
Ferrari opted for more short-run practice than Mercedes, with quali sims in Saturday's FP3 often largely pointless as conditions do not match the night-time running in qualifying and the race.
Vettel spun while on a later long run, perhaps damaging the extra set of soft tyres used, which could have an impact later in the weekend.
Althuogh both Bottas and Hamilton delivered impressive long run pace, it was matched by Leclerc, suggesting Ferrari have plenty of reason to be optimistic this weekend.
We would have paid good money to see the respective reactions of team principals Christian Horner and Cyril Abiteboul – no strangers to each other after years of quarrelling.
Renault-powered cars were rapid in the speed trap, with McLaren also strong in a straight line, although Red Bull, like Mercedes and Ferrari, will be expected to turn up the performance come qualifying, while Verstappen especially seemed to leave time in the first sector, so any thoughts of Renault crashing the top three might be premature.
The sister Renault is also worth noting, with Daniel Ricciardo down in 14th, over a second off Hulkenberg's pace.
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