Hamilton sets the pace in first Bahrain practice

Lewis Hamilton has served immediate notice of McLaren’s competitiveness this weekend in Bahrain by setting the fastest time in Practice One.

With attention in Bahrain finally turning to on-track events, Hamilton seemingly endured little bother in demonstrating the MP4-27’s pace with his first lap out of the pits ending in a lap time just a tenth shy of top spot with over half of the session elapsed. His own table-topping time duly followed two laps later, with Hamilton’s 1:33.572 three-tenths quicker than the best of Sebastian Vettel and over half-a-second faster than Paul di Resta’s quickest effort after the Force India had elected to put on soft tyres following a KERS failure.

For Mercedes, Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest, though the fact that Nico set more than twice the number of laps recorded by Hamilton would suggest that the victors of China were primarily focused on long-run simulations. Jenson Button rounded out the top five.

Once again, the F2012 looked a troublesome handful for both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa with the Ferrari duo finishing the session 13th and 15th respectively. There was little to report from Lotus, meanwhile, with the team embarking on a quiet session and both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finishing over a second off the pace.

Neither Toro Rossos seemed to get to grips with the slippery surface, while the Saubers also failed to make a leading impression.

At this very early stage, it looks like McLaren have the edge, but perhaps the most significant on-track development was the re-emergence of Vettel as a lead runner.