Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in a shimmering one-two in floodlit practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.
The 2008 world champion, winner in steamy Malaysia last weekend ahead of championship leader Rosberg, picked up where he left off on the first day of action at the desert circuit om Sakhir, Bahrain.
Hamilton was fastest in both sessions with a best time of 1 minute, 34.325 seconds in cooler evening conditions after a 1:37.502 in the afternoon sunshine.
Today’s race is the 10th held in the restive Gulf kingdom since it hosted the Middle East’s first Formula One Grand Prix and will be in a day-to-night format.
With the cars gleaming in the glare of 5,000 bulbs illuminating the track from the newly installed floodlights, the sleek “Silver Arrows” stood out as expected pace-setters.
In a session that saw track temperatures drop from 33°C on a bright and breezy afternoon to a balmy 25°C after dark, Rosberg’s fastest lap was 0.365 slower than his British teammate’s.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third-fastest in both sessions, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo fourth in the evening and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in the afternoon.
Ricciardo again suffered problems with his car’s fuel flow sensor, the same part that has failed in the first two races of the season.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion who will be disputing his 250th race today, was fifth and sixth respectively.
The timesheets reinforced Mercedes’ early-season superiority, with four cars powered by their engines in the top five after lunch.
Williams, who also have Mercedes engines, had Brazilian Felipe Massa fifth in the evening session despite sitting out the first half of the session because they already had plenty of data from eight days of pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel was 10th and seventh in the two sessions.
The sessions were untroubled by protests against Bahrain’s government and GP elsewhere in the country by demonstrators who say the race lends legitimacy to the regime they are opposing.