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Raikkonen on top for dominant Ferrari in Bahrain practice

08 April 2018

Concluding back at the front and Sebastian Vettel's pole will certainly calm a few fears some had that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton could dominate qualifying in 2018 after Australia.

The only sour note for Ferrari was the sight of Raikkonen pulling off the track towards the end of the session with a loose front-right wheel, although the Finn escaped a grid penalty. Hamilton ended up second because his team made an error of judgment during Vettel's pitstop.

"First run in Q3, I was very happy and then I tossed it away in the last corner".

Bottas also had a new gearbox fitted on Friday evening, but escaped a grid penalty because he had already been penalised in Australia.

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On race pace on the super-soft tyre, the Red Bulls appeared to have an advantage - they were an average of about 0.2secs quicker than Raikkonen, with the Mercedes a similar margin back from the Ferrari.

Hamilton's setback in his bid to overhaul Vettel's early-season lead in the title race - following his victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix - was confirmed by the International Motoring Federation (FIA), the sport's ruling body.

In a further boost for Ferrari, the aging Kimi Raikkonen has looked sharp all weekend, leading the second and third practice.

Raikkonen, who showed impressive pace during the weekend's three practice sessions, had been ahead after the initial attempts in the top-ten qualifying shootout and had the advantage of being the last man to start his final run.

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That latest setback will hamper the Mercedes driver's chances of producing an immediate response to Vettel, who benefited from a Mercedes software glitch to beat the Briton in Melbourne.

"It is a very different circuit, different tarmac, different temperatures, so for sure we need to understand completely why. If we look purely at lap times it was OK, but that doesn't tell you much; It's only the first day and it's impossible to know what the others were doing". "I mean, we've got things to improve on". 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.

Renault was best of the rest as Nico Hulkenberg finished while Carlos Sainz was not much further behind in eighth.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly was ninth in his Honda-powered Toro Rosso with Fernando Alonso, a three-times victor in Bahrain, rounding out the top 10 in his McLaren.

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There was also big disappointment for Max Verstappen and the Williams duo, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.

Raikkonen on top for dominant Ferrari in Bahrain practice