Massa tops first practice in Bahrain

Ferrari driver edges out team-mate Fernando Alonso for P1 in opening session.

Double Bahrain Grand Prix winner Felipe Massa laid down an early marker for Ferrari in Sakhir with the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Brazilian finished just over seven hundredths of a second ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso, himself a three-time winner of this race.

After waiting an hour to join the action, Massa, who won here in 2007 and 2008, set his time of 1:34.487 almost as soon as he emerged from the Ferrari garage. The time was good enough to eclipse Alonso, who had set his best lap of 1:34.564 a few moments earlier, to second position. Third place went to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, With Sebastian Vettel fourth for Red Bull Racing.

Fifth place went to Paul Di Resta, the Force India driver finishing just over fourth tenths adrift of Massa’s benchmark. The Scot was backed up by Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Adrian Sutil, Kimi Raikkonen and in tenth place, Romain Grosjean.

With the track dusty and lacking grip, most of the expected front-runners held station in their garages for the first half of the session, a situation that gave control of proceedings to reserve drivers and those with development work to do. That meant 22 laps for early pacesetter Button and 23 tours for team-mate Sergio Perez as McLaren seek improvements.

The session also saw Heikki Kovalainen back at the wheel of a Caterham. The Finn, who has been drafted in by the team as a reserve driver alongside American Alexander Rossi, completed 20 laps at the wheel of the team’s CT03.

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Times

1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.487
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:34.564
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.621
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:34.790
5 Paul di Resta Force India 1:34.949
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:35.069
7 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:35.101
8 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:35.119     
9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:35.345]
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:35.611  
11 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:35.640    
12 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:35.783    
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.792        
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:36.014
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:36.485
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.498
17 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:36.755
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:37.214
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:37.850    
20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:38.401     
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:39.445    
22 Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia 1:40.215