F1: Lewis Hamilton fastest in first practice for controversial Bahrain Grand Prix 2012
LEWIS Hamilton led the way in first practice for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix for the third consecutive race.
After topping the timesheet in Malaysia and China at the end of the opening 90-minute session, Hamilton again proved to be the man to beat on a Friday morning.
With Formula One returning to the Bahrain International Circuit for the first time since 2010 following the cancellation of last year's race due to violent anti-government protests, Hamilton was quickly on the pace.
The current championship leader posted a lap of one minute 33.572secs on a track that has reverted back to its 2004-2009 configuration in the wake of a failed experiment in 2010 when it was lengthened.
In his McLaren, the 27-year-old finished 0.305secs ahead of Red Bull's reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, with Paul di Resta third for Force India.
The Scot, however, did apparently run on the softer option tyre, compared to the harder mediums used by those around him, with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg doing similar and winding up sixth.
The duo finished 0.578secs and 0.77secs behind Hamilton, with Sunday's debut winner Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes fourth and Jenson Button in his McLaren fifth.
Mercedes' Michael Schumacher was seventh and Red Bull's Mark Webber eighth, both within a second of Hamilton, whilst the Lotus' of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.
The Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, meanwhile, were a lowly 13th and 15th, around two seconds of the pace.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes 1min 33.572secs
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault 1:33.877
3 Paul Di Resta (Gbr) Force India-Mercedes 1:34.150
4 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:34.249
5 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.277
6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:34.344
7 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:34.483
8 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:34.552
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault 1:34.609
10 Romain Grosjean (Swi) Lotus-Renault 1:34.847
11 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber 1:35.024
12 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault 1:35.268
13 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:35.436
14 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault 1:35.497
15 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:35.719
16 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber 1:35.929
17 Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.195
18 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Caterham-Renault 1:36.330
19 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Caterham-Renault 1:36.484
20 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.591
21 Charles Pic (Fra) Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.467
22 Timo Glock (Ger) Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.006
23 Pedro de (Spa) la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1:38.877
24 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) HRT-Cosworth 1:39.996