• Max Verstappen was quickest in the second practice session in Bahrain.
• Pierre Gasly topped the time sheets in practice 1.
• Lewis Hamilton struggled in both sessions not getting any pace.
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Lewis Hamilton finished a distant ninth in practice for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix as world champion Max Verstappen took the top spot.
Hamilton arrived for the opening round of the Formula One season, fearing his Mercedes machine would not be a contender for victory. And while times in practice are treated with caution as teams trial different tyres, fuel loads, and engine settings, Hamilton will be alarmed by his apparent lack of pace.
The Briton, seventh in the first action of the day, then finished an eye-watering 1.2 seconds behind Red Bull's Verstappen – the man who denied him a record eighth title at last season's contentious decider in Abu Dhabi – and six tenths adrift of his new Mercedes teammate George Russell.
Ferrari followed up their encouraging pre-season form, with Charles Leclerc second and Carlos Sainz third in the other scarlet car. Russell finished fourth.
Ninety-six days on from the final race of last year's gripping and controversial title duel, Hamilton was back on track for his 16th campaign on the grid.
The sport has undergone its most significant rule change in a generation, with the cars radically revised in a bid to provide closer racing.
Hamilton's Mercedes team might have dominated in recent times, winning the past eight constructors' championships, but there is a growing feeling they will not start the new campaign at the top of the tree.
The Silver Arrows have struggled with 'porpoising' – the phenomenon seen this year when the car violently bounces on its suspension at 322km/h.
Early on in Friday's second running under the lights, and amid a flurry of sparks, Hamilton said: "It's still bouncing a lot."
He later complained that there was something wrong with his front brakes.
For Verstappen, there were no such concerns as his bid to defend his crown started in the best possible fashion. And there was good news for Ferrari, too.
Leclerc, the 24-year-old from Monegasque, finished just 0.087sec behind Verstappen as Ferrari go in search of their first drivers' title since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed in 2007.
Niels Wittich is in the referee's chair here after Michael Masi was axed as race director. In the opening moments of the day's first action, he was called into action as bodywork fell off Esteban Ocon's Alpine.
Wittich deployed the red flag for 13 minutes as the debris was removed from the main straight.
Ocon's teammate, Fernando Alonso, finished fifth, ahead of Hamilton's former teammate Valtteri Bottas, now of Alfa Romeo.Lando Norris was 11th for McLaren, with the returning London-born Alexander Albon propping up the back for Williams.