Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc gave Ferrari a much-needed boost by topping the first two practice sessions at Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.

After Leclerc finished about 0.3 seconds ahead of Vettel in the hot afternoon sun, Vettel was then only 0.035 clear of Leclerc when temperatures dropped considerably on the desert circuit in the cooler evening session.

Vettel was more than half a second ahead of world champion Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes under the floodlights, which appears to give Ferrari some encouragement after neither driver managed to get on the podium at the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago.

“The Ferraris have been quick from the get-go and picked up more pace from there. So it’s completely different to what we’ve seen in Melbourne,” Hamilton said. “We had some issues with the balance of the car. At the moment it looks like the Ferraris are ahead.”

Leclerc is in his first season with Ferrari and placed nearly one second ahead of Valtteri Bottas — Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes — in the first practice.

“It looks like it’s going to be very close between us and Ferrari,” Bottas said. “They are clearly faster around here than they were in Melbourne.”

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