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F1 champion Hamilton fastest in 1st practice for Bahrain GP

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time Friday in the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was .45 seconds quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas and .97 seconds ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez on the 5.4-kilometer (3.3-mile) desert track.

Hamilton won his seventh title at the Turkish GP two weeks ago to equal Michael Schumacher's F1 record.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Tolga Bozoglu, Pool via AP)

Ferrari struggled, with Charles Leclerc only 11th fastest and four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel 12th quickest. Leclerc took his first pole position in Bahrain last year.

Romain Grosjean damaged the tires on his Haas car after going off the circuit and over some gravel.

A second practice later Friday will be held under floodlights.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain arrives at the paddock ahed of the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Hamad Mohammed, Pool via AP)

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Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Tolga Bozoglu, Pool via AP)

Racing Point driver Sergio Perez of Mexico steers his car during the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Tolga Bozoglu, Pool via AP)

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Brynn Lennon, Pool via AP)