Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull in the opening practice session of the new Formula 1 season ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen, a narrow favourite for victory this weekend ahead of seven-time reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, was a comfortable three-tenths-of-a-second clear ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas with a lap of one minute 31.394secs.
Despite the conditions being wholly unrepresentative given qualifying and the race is run in the cooler evening climes, the drivers wasted no time in heading out on to the track that had a temperature of 46.5 degrees centigrade and with the air at 36.
With both practice sessions on Friday for this season now cut from 90 minutes to one hour, it means all running is crucial for the teams for gathering data.
What was remarkable was seeing Hamilton take just seven minutes to take to the circuit on a set of the soft compound tyres that ordinarily, in past seasons, are reserved for the end of the session.
The W12 that posed problems in pre-season testing due to its rear-end instability and lack of pace, certainly compared to its main rival, the RB16B from Red Bull, at least appeared more planted across the 60 minutes on this occasion, although suggested it was now front-limited.
With all the teams ultimately running soft-tyre programmes, it was Red Bull and Verstappen who effectively drew first blood as the Dutchman was quickest in the first two sectors of the Bahrain International Circuit, although lost out in the final third.
The Dutchman's lap was still good enough to ease past Bottas, with Hamilton down in fourth, 0.527secs adrift, and Perez 0.677s behind Verstappen.
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