Ferrari's Raikkonen tops the timesheets in final Bahrain GP practice

Image Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Media

There was a lot of focus on Mercedes' engine modes at the Australian Grand Prix in the wake of Lewis Hamilton's dominant pole position, but the indications are that there is very little to choose between the performance of the German auto manufacturer and Ferrari.

It was feared he would be punished for an unsafe release - because his front right wheel was not attached properly - and given a grid penalty, but instead Ferrari were fined €5,000 (RM23,767).

You would be a fool not to count him out for at least a podium and if luck should go his way as it did with Vettel in Melbourne, you never know what might happen.

Hamilton qualified fourth behind Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas but has a five-place drop for an unauthorised gearbox change.

Sebastian Vettel in action during the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying.

"Overall I have been happier this weekend with how the vehicle has been responding and how the front end is responding". Really happy I got the second run and got it clean. It looked like a similar error, just losing control of the auto through the apex, at a race Red Bull would have hoped to have two cars putting Ferrari under pressure from the very start.

Sebastian Vettel, victor at Australia and last 12 months in Bahrain, was fifth quickest ahead of past season's pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas who was first sixth for Mercedes.

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Vettel won in Melbourne, with Hamilton second.

World champion Lewis Hamilton took up where he left off last season with the fastest lap times in opening practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Friday. Bottas starts third for Mercedes, but Hamilton will start in ninth place after a penalty.

Dutchman Max Verstappen, who missed the first session due to a power failure, was fifth for Red Bull ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. "I thought there was a lot we could improve, but it was a messy think, in the end". "In clear air we were actually very, very strong", the 28-year-old told reporters.

Esteban Ocon returned Force India to the top ten for the first time this year with a solid performance to edge the second Renault of Carlos Sainz by 0.112s.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly was sixth in the Honda-powered Toro Rosso and Kevin Magnussen was seventh for Haas. He was fourth fastest at the time and was on target for a top six grid position, but will now start Sunday's race from 15th on the grid.

Sadly, Williams were also-rans in qualifying, with Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll starting tomorrow's race in 18th and 20th.

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