Nico Roseberg has taken his fine form to Bahrain by winning the first practice match in preparation for the Grand Prix.Nico Rosberg headed team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.505secs after the Briton made a mistake on his best lap.And the German was a massive 1.834secs quicker than Kimi Raikkonen, third for Ferrari, on the same ‘soft’ tyres.Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were fourth and fifth as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was 11th on the medium tyre.Debutant in place of Fernando Alonso Vandoorne potentially faster than Button
In windy and comparatively cool conditions – it was only 21C and overcast when temperatures are more usually in the mid-30Cs at this race – Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne made his debut in Formula 1 as stand-in for the injured Fernando Alonso.Vandoorne, who had not driven the 2016 McLaren before Friday, flew in overnight from Japan, where he had been testing the car he races in the Super Formula category, and was 18th fastest, 0.952secs slower than team-mate Jenson Button.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said: “He did very well – it is not easy to step in to this high-tech car with a lot of processes to learn. He knows most of them but doing it for real is very different.”The comparison between the two will be watched with intense interest through the weekend as it is effectively a partial audition for the job of Alonso’s team-mate at McLaren in 2017.Button is out of contract at the end of this season ad Vandoorne, McLaren’s reserve driver, is the most highly regarded not to have a regular F1 drive.
At the front, Rosberg and Hamilton were only 0.081secs apart after their first runs on the soft tyre – with the German again marginally ahead.
Hamilton has won twice in Bahrain and would be looking forward to winning it a third time when the race begins in a few days.