|© Foto Studio Colombo/Ferrari
Ferrari continued its impressive run from China in the opening practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday with Felipe Massa setting the top time, marginally ahead of his teammate Fernando Alonso.
Seven-hundredths separated the Ferrari pair with the Brazilian’s time of 1 minute 34.487 seconds from his 11 laps proving to be the early pacesetter in an otherwise uneventful practice in hot and dry conditions.
"Massa improves after two laps, a time of 1:34.487 which is worth P1. The two Ferraris are leading for the moment...but its just a Friday ;-)" Ferrari mentioned on its Twitter page shortly after the top time was set.
As has been the norm, the track went quiet for nearly 30 minutes after drivers ran their installation laps as teams prefer to save their tyres for the weekend, opting to run little on a circuit with very little grip early in the weekend.
Mercedes was the last team to do its initial runs with Nico Rosberg reporting a little later that "the downshifts sounds strange" referring to a likely issue in his gearbox.
The German driver, who has retired in two of the three races this season due to reliability issues, promptly returned to the pit lane and rejoined later and was a tenth off in third. He was followed by defending champion Sebastian Vettel, three-tenths off Massa’s time.
Plenty of runs witnessed drivers going a bit wide off the circuit as they had to contend with the slippery surface, which is expected to rubber in more as the weekend progresses.
Force India driver Paul di Resta was fifth, followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Adrian Sutil.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean rounded up the top ten, ahead of Sergio Perez who completed the most number of laps in the session with 23.
Lewis Hamilton was down in 13th but Peter Windsor, a former manager at Williams and Ferrari, noted on Twitter that "on heavy fuel, long run, amazing to see HAM recording identical S3 times down to a thousandth of a second on consecutive laps" suggesting that the Briton's overall times are not indicative of his pace.
Heikki Kovalainen had his first run this year, days after he was announced as a Caterham reserve driver. The Finn was 20th, slower than Charles Pic in the other Caterham but quicker than both the Marussias.
Rodolfo Gonzalez, a reserve at Marussia, had replaced Jules Bianchi for the session but could manage only seven laps after a gearbox issue surfaced and was consequently the slowest driver of the day.