Kimi Raikkonen fastest after Ferrari impress in early practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix

Lotus driver ahead of Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in second practice

Kimi Raikkonen has thrown his hat into the ring for victory in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix after he topped the timesheet at the end of today's two 90-minute sessions at the 5.412km track.

Winner in the season-opening race in Australia and second in China on Sunday, the 2007 world champion trails Sebastian Vettel by three points in the standings after three races.

After finishing runner-up at the desert-based Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir last year, Raikkonen would naturally love to go one better 12 months on.

On the quicker medium-compound Pirelli, with the hard rubber the other tyre to be used this weekend, the Lotus driver's best of his 31 laps was with a time of one minute 34.154secs.

The Finn was ahead of Red Bull drivers Mark Webber and Vettel, with the Australian 0.030secs adrift and the German 0.128secs down.

Webber, on the occasion of his 200th grand prix, knows he has to be as close to the front as possible given he faces a three-place grid penalty for colliding with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne in Shanghai.

Fernando Alonso, winner in China and second quickest in the morning run behind Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, slipped to fourth in the afternoon, but only 0.156secs behind Raikkonen.

Ferrari adopted a fine policy in the afternoon, with Alonso embarking on a long run on the hard tyre, and Massa on the medium to determine their longevity.

Given the chaotic tyre strategies and plethora of pit stops that unfolded in China, there appears to be no such concerns for this event, with a two-stop race likely to be the norm.

Paul Di Resta kept Force India in the top five, with the Scot less than four tenths of a second off of Raikkonen, and four tenths ahead of team-mate Adrian Sutil down in ninth.

In between the duo were Massa, Romain Grosjean in his Lotus and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, who was third quickest in the morning on the hard tyre.

Whether Mercedes have played their hand yet is unclear as team-mate Lewis Hamilton could only manage 10th fastest, 0.822secs adrift, after trailing in 13th in the morning.

McLaren appear to be facing another troublesome weekend as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were 11th and 13th respectively, both over a second down, with Vergne sandwiched between the pair.

Marussia's Max Chilton managed to finish ahead of team-mate Jules Bianchi for the first time this season, the Briton three seconds behind Raikkonen, but 0.050secs ahead of the Frenchman in 20th and 21st positions.

Bianchi, though, was forced to make way for reserve Rodolfo Gonzalez this morning, so missing out on vital track time.

Caterham's Giedo van der Garde, who also sat out FP1 for returning Finn Heikki Kovalainen who is now reserve after being dropped as a permanent driver last season, brought up the rear, 3.816secs down.

PA

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