F1: Lewis Hamilton continues to set the pace as Mercedes finish Bahrain Grand Prix practice in dominant form

The Malaysian GP winner was over two-tenths quicker than his team-mate Nico Rosberg in the first session

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton dazzled under Bahrain's newly-installed floodlights to offer up the prospect of him claiming back-to-back wins for the first time in four years.

Five days ago at the Sepang International Circuit Hamilton fired up his Formula One world championship challenge with the 23rd victory of his career.

After retiring after just two laps into the season-opening race in Australia last month, Hamilton and his Mercedes ran faultlessly in the heat and humidity of Malaysia en route to a lights-to-flag win.

Buoyed by that success, and with Mercedes clearly in possession of the best car at present at the start of the new V6 power-unit era, Hamilton comfortably topped the timesheet in Bahrain.

The country is staging its 10th anniversary of the race, and by way of celebration is now a night event for the first time alongside Singapore and near-Middle Eastern neighbour Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton led the way in the first practice session, albeit run in the middle of the afternoon and with conditions hardly representative of what is to unfold in qualifying and the race, which start at 6pm local time (4pm UK).

The time was a fairly pedestrian one minute 37.502secs, but with the lights turned on and the faster soft-compound Pirelli tyres strapped on to the car, Hamilton went 3.2secs quicker.

That is comparable to the quickest time from FP2 a year ago, albeit with the slightly slower medium rubber the best tyre then.

Only team-mate Nico Rosberg was remotely in touching distance of Hamilton, and even then the German was 0.365secs adrift.

Rosberg, however, is under investigation by the stewards after Force India's Sergio Perez was forced to swerve out of the way of the slow-moving German early in the session when he was on the racing line.

As for the rest, they were all at least a second off of Hamilton's pace, highly unusual for a second practice session, underlying the advantage Mercedes have over their rivals at present.

As in FP1, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was the quickest of the chasing pack in his Ferrari in the second session, albeit 1.035secs down.

The double world champion was followed by Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull, but suffering yet another fuel sensor failure - the reason behind the appeal of his disqualification from his second place in the season-opening race in Australia.

Williams' Felipe Massa, who along with team-mate Valtteri Bottas sat in the garage for half of the session until the track improved, was fifth on the timesheet, 1.117secs adrift.

McLaren's Jenson Button and reigning four-times champion Sebastian Vettel were sixth and seventh quickest, but with both 1.2secs down.

Rookies Daniel Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen were next up for Toro Rosso and McLaren respectively, with Perez completing the top 10, 1.5secs back.

Marussia's Max Chilton was down in 20th, and with his session ending 40 minutes early due to a left-front brake disk failure on his car that forced him into a 360 degree spin on the approach to the right-hander turn four.

The Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson brought up the rear, with the latter's session ending with a technical failure of his own that forced him to park the car on the side of the track.