Verstappen fastest in first Bahrain GP practice
Max Verstappen set the pace in the first practice session of the Formula One season in Bahrain on Friday as his Red Bull team immediately lived up to expectations that have soared since testing.
The Dutch youngster, who was fastest overall in preseason testing at the same Sakhir circuit, set a best time of one minute 31.394 seconds.
Valtteri Bottas, who has won the opening race of the championship for the past two years, was 0.298 slower for champions Mercedes.
McLaren's Lando Norris was third fastest, with a car now powered by a Mercedes engine after the switch from Renault, with seven-time world champion and fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton fourth for Mercedes, 0.527 off Verstappen.
Norris had gone top with 27 minutes to go before Bottas went faster and then Verstappen, who reeled off a string of fastest sectors in the closing minutes.
Friday's two practice sessions are now each one hour long, rather than the previous 90 minutes, in a change for 2021.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fifth on the time sheets with Mexican Sergio Perez, Verstappen's new team mate, sixth and Pierre Gasly seventh for AlphaTauri.
Carlos Sainz, switching from McLaren to Ferrari, was eighth with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, taking Sainz's place at McLaren, ninth.