Hamilton dominates opening practice session in China

Momentum shift? Red Bull and Ferrari are prising open the Mercedes grip

Ferrari star Sebastian Vettel seems primed to win his fifth Formula One world championship after another dominating performance at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday.

Hamilton finished second and third in the first two races in Australia and Bahrain.

Hamilton and Bottas, for example, set foreboding times in the first free practice sessions, recording the fastest and third-fastest times respectively on the soft-compound tyre whereas the second-placed Raikkonen and the rest of the frontrunners all used the ultrasoft tyre.

The Briton trails Sebastian Vettel by 17 points heading into this weekend's grand prix after the German won the first two races of the season.

"I must say, it's been awesome", Gasly said of his "success" as he prepares for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, the third race of the season. Bahrain was all about Vettel and his outrageously long stint on the yellow soft tyres and holding off Bottas on the penultimate lap of the race to claim a victory. "But if we do, like this weekend, and we find the sweet spot, then I'm pretty confident that we can do well there as well".

Ricciardo said: "Overall, we aren't looking too bad and I hope we can be in the fight with Ferrari and Mercedes".

But Hamilton denied Mercedes was in trouble, saying its wide-ranging problems so far just point to the difficulty of keeping a team firing on all cylinders in each contest. Everybody is putting on new parts and improving their cars, so we need to make sure we're on that train among those teams that will still be strong at the end of the season.

These are the tiny margins that may define this season and they are noticeable given that Mercedes' dominance of the turbo-hybrid era has been marked by a team executing every aspect of racing nearly flawlessly. We've been progressing through the sessions and we've got a good idea. "That's racing. You can say what you like about the incident. This track is good for overtaking anyway so I think we can have a good race judging by our pace".

While running in P4, Ricciardo suffered a lap two electronics failure on his engine before teammate Verstappen, who was forced to start 15th after crashing at Turn 3 during qualifying, tagged Lewis Hamilton, picked up a puncture and retired soon after with transmission failure. I honestly think I may have found a career that could equal my passion for racing'.

"I just remember texting earlier in the week saying we really, really need to come with our A-game this week".