Fifth Place Both Disappointing And Encouraging - Daniel Ricciardo

Fernando Alonso

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) - Kimi Raikkonen topped the leaderboard ahead of Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel in the second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.

"We know that is tougher for us in the race than on one lap performance", said Gasly.

Lewis Hamilton, who had a patchy first practice session, again looked a bit short of speed as he finished fourth, just behind Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

In a boost for Ferrari, both Mercedes cars were more than half a second slower than the best lap set by Raikkonen, who would be investigated by race stewards for an unsafe auto release following a pitstop.

"The auto feels OK, but we still need to find some pace, especially for a single lap", Bottas said.

Max Verstappen's hopes of kick starting his 2018 F1 season in Bahrain suffered a serious setback after his Red Bull malfunctioned on the opening lap of first practice.

Raikkonen was later investigated by race stewards for an unsafe vehicle release following a pitstop. With such fine margins, any one of the three teams could prove to be quickest during Sunday's race.

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His best effort on Friday was 0.655 seconds slower than Raikkonen, however, with at least some of that down to the 33-year-old running into traffic on his flying lap. Hamilton was over a second off Ricciardo's lap and eight-tenths off the time set by Vettel in fourth.

Verstappen's auto ground to a halt on the final strait, and his humiliation was complete when he had to push the Red Bull - with the help of the martials - back to the garage amid 30 degree heat in the Gulf desert.

Aside from the out-of-position drivers - including Grosjean in 16th while team mate Kevin Magnussen starts sixth - even closely matched cars should be able to fight, with the long pit straight providing a clear overtaking opportunity into Turn 1.

Verstappen's crash in qualifying in Bahrain has come just two weeks after the Dutchman also spun in the Australian Grand Prix, but team boss Christian Horner has denied suggestions that the youngster is pushing too hard.

"Well I studied the data immediately when I came out of the auto because for me it was also a big surprise what happened", Verstappen said. Practice and qualifying are ok but Sunday's my favourite day of the week.

"I'm always excited for the race".

Vettel won in Melbourne, profiting from an error by Mercedes to finish ahead of Hamilton, who was leading from pole.

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