Adrian Sutil struck the first blow of the 2010 Formula 1 season, by setting the fastest time in the first free practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix for Force India.
The German slightly upset the form book by edging two-time World Champion and preseason favorite Fernando Alonso to the top spot with a 1m56.583sec lap. The Ferrari driver's last ditch attempt was just 0.183sec shy of Sutil.
Robert Kubica provided another surprise by going third fastest for Renault – the Pole having proven competitive whenever he was on track. His yellow machine was 0.458sec back from Sutil, and less than three tenths faster than Felipe Massa's second Ferrari.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were next up, having enjoyed a battle for the top spot in the early stages of the session.
Vitantonio Liuzzi proved the pace of the Force India in seventh ahead of Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and the returning Michael Schumacher – who was more than 0.4sec slower than his Mercedes teammate.
A fascinating first free practice was opened by Jarno Trulli, who brought the Lotus name back on track in an official session for the first time since the Australian Grand Prix in 1994. The Italian was also quickly out on track after the obligatory break that follows the flurry of installation laps at the start of practice. Trulli was joined by teammate Heikki Kovalainen – who also opened the serious times with a 2m04.225sec.
Just prior to the 30-minute mark, Hamilton joined the fray in the controversial new McLaren and lowered that target to a more realistic 1m57.759sec. He didn't keep the top spot for long, however, as his teammate – Button went faster with a 1m57.068sec lap.
As the session reached the hour mark, new Ferrari man Alonso moved to the front with a 1m56.909sec. Just to ensure things didn't get too familiar, Sutil then thumped in a super-fast 1m56.583sec lap with 25 minutes to go. That time would stand to the end.
Sutil ended the session 7.3sec faster than Trulli, who was slowest of the timed runners in 21st. It was Timo Glock that was fastest of the new runners, pedaling his Virgin around Sakhir in 2m03.680sec, 0.2sec quicker than the Lotus cars.
HRT also made it out having completed scrutineering this morning, Bruno Senna giving the Dallara-built machine a shakedown 70 minutes into the session.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:56.583 18
2. Alonso Ferrari 1:56.766 + 0.183 18
3. Kubica Renault 1:57.041 + 0.458 19
4. Massa Ferrari 1:57.055 + 0.472 19
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.068 + 0.485 19
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:57.163 + 0.580 19
7. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:57.194 + 0.611 19
8. Rosberg Mercedes 1:57.199 + 0.616 15
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:57.255 + 0.672 17
10. Schumacher Mercedes 1:57.662 + 1.079 16
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:57.722 + 1.139 18
12. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:57.894 + 1.311 20
13. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:57.943 + 1.360 17
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:58.399 + 1.816 13
15. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:58.782 + 2.199 11
16. Petrov Renault 1:58.880 + 2.297 13
17. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 2:00.250 + 3.667 18
18. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2:01.388 + 4.805 11
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2:03.680 + 7.097 8
20. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2:03.848 + 7.265 21
21. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 2:03.970 + 7.387 15
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 3
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth
All Timing Unofficial