Bahrain Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton slumps as Ferrari star in practice

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Hamilton, who will start ninth following a five-place grid penalty, said Ferrari's performance versus Mercedes in qualifying proved the engines were closely matched.

Ferrari has since been fined 5,000 euros by the FIA for an unsafe release, but Raikkonen avoided a three-place grid penalty.

Kimi Raikkonen produced the fastest time across Friday's sessions in FP2 as the Ferrari excelled on supersoft tyres - the Finn stopping the clock at one minute, 29.817 seconds.

Ferrari have looked to have an edge on Mercedes all weekend, Hamilton and Bottas battling inconsistent handling on the stop-start Sakhir circuit in the desert south of the Bahraini capital Manama.

"First run in Q3, I was very happy and then I tossed it away in the last corner". "Ferrari have done a great job this weekend, they've got the pace and it's been a hard weekend for me overall in general".

Vettel snatched an opportunistic win for Ferrari in Melbourne two weeks ago, despite Mercedes clearly having the faster vehicle. It looked like a similar error, just losing control of the vehicle through the apex, at a race Red Bull would have hoped to have two cars putting Ferrari under pressure from the very start.

And it was the Italian team who set the pace in practice with Kimi Raikkonen pipping Vettel to the fastest time in the second session under the floodlights.

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Sebastian Vettel, victor at Australia and last 12 months in Bahrain, was fifth quickest ahead of past season's pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas who was first sixth for Mercedes.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo came in a disappointing fifth and sixth respectively and will look to improve on that tomorrow.

"It's very close and we have some work to do".

"We were struggling in Bahrain last season too, but our pace in Australian was not a dream, it was real, so our race pace is better than over one lap, but we need to find out why".

Fernando Alonso was 0.313s clear of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, but that will be little consolation for the two-time champion who was 0.4s off the Honda-powered Toro Rosso of Gasly.

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

Eliminated: 16th Romain Grosjean (Haas), 17th Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), 18th Sergey Sirotkin (Williams), 19th Charles Leclerc (Sauber), 20th Lance Stroll (Williams).

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