McLaren's Lewis Hamilton stole the top of the time sheet from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the last practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix by just six thousandths of a second. The rookie clocked 1:32.543 straight after Raikkonen had just gone fastest. The BMW Saubers put in a good effort, Nick Heidfeld third and Robert Kubica fourth.
The track temperature was around 38 degrees at the start of the session and the air some 10 degrees lower. The Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were the first out on the circuit, followed by the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed and the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato were next in the Super Aguris and the BMWs of Kubica and Heidfeld. The Hondas were also fairly quickly out, Rubens Barrichello first then Jenson Button, as were the Spykers of Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil. David Coulthard and Mark Webber followed in the Red Bulls.
Initially it was just installation laps, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and the Williams duo of Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz also putting in an appearance. Sato posted a 1:37 but Davidson removed him with a 1:36.819. Only the Ferraris didn't head out in the first five minutes and most others quickly returned to the pits.
Sato and Davidson were the only ones lapping, Sato moving ahead of his teammate for 1:36.229. 10 minutes in and a few more returned to the track; Sutil posted third then lost it to Schumacher and Albers slotted into fourth. Heidfeld went to the top, 1:34.470, and Speed and Liuzzi took second and third respectively.
Trulli then took the third spot, while the Renaults were eighth and ninth, Kovalainen ahead of Fisichella. Kubica posted second, just under half a second off Heidfeld, but Raikkonen was the first Ferrari out and removed the BMWs from the top with a 1:33.480, eight tenths up. Teammate Felipe Massa followed into second, just under two tenths down.
Coulthard popped up in third and Massa overtook Raikkonen by a couple of tenths, 1:33.307. Hamilton clocked third on his first flyer and Alonso sixth, while Button and Barrichello hovered outside the top 10 in 11th and 13th. Raikkonen went back to the top with a 1:33.231, less than a tenth ahead of Massa and about two ahead of Hamilton.
Webber improved to 10th from the midfield and around the half hour mark there was a lull in activity. The Hondas had slipped into the midfield and towards the back were the Renaults mixed up with the Super Aguris and Spykers. There was no change at the front at the time, the Ferraris leading the way.
Hamilton was the first of the top names to make a move heading into the last 20 minutes. The McLaren man only just ousted the Ferraris with a 1:32.928, two hundredths up on Massa who moved ahead of Raikkonen. Button improved to fourth but lost it straight away to a rocketing Davidson, who in turn fell to Wurz.
Rosberg followed into fifth and then went one better for fourth, while Barrichello climbed to 10th. Alonso took Rosberg's spot, a tenth behind Raikkonen, and Sato jumped up to ninth. The Renaults were still languishing at the back with the Spykers, although they had put a few laps in.
Webber moved up to fifth after being shuffled down the order and Heidfeld did likewise, shooting to the top with a 1:32.839, a tenth up on Hamilton. Kubica moved into second then Speed caused a brief yellow flag period in the middle sector when his Toro Rosso went off track for a currently unknown reason.
Davidson took the third slot, relegating the Ferraris and McLarens to the middle of the top 10. It didn't last long, though, as first Raikkonen then Hamilton took the top spot, the latter's 1:32.543 just six thousandths up on the Finn. Coulthard was the second to drop out, stopping in the last sector in the final few minutes. The Renaults moved up to the top 10, Fisichella ninth and Kovalainen 10th.
It was an interesting session -- Ferrari and McLaren still look strong but BMW could make life difficult for them in qualifying. Will Ferrari run light to secure the front row from the fast starting McLarens? It could be a rather tactical afternoon. Final top eight classification: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Kubica, Davidson, Massa, Alonso, Webber.