Lewis Hamilton continued from where he left off in Malaysia on Sunday by spearheading a Mercedes one-two in first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Five days ago at the Sepang International Circuit Hamilton fired up his Formula One world championship challenge with the 23rd victory of his career.

After retiring after just two laps into the season-opening race in Australia last month, Hamilton and his Mercedes ran faultlessly in the heat and humidity of Malaysia en route to a lights-to-flag win.

Buoyed by that success, and with Mercedes clearly in possession of the best car at present at the start of the new V6 power-unit era, Hamilton comfortably topped the timesheet in Bahrain.

At the end of 90-minute opening session at the Bahrain International Circuit, Hamilton finished with a lap of one minute 37.502secs, with team-mate Nico Rosberg 0.231secs adrift.

It would appear, as the teams slowly get to grips with the new power units and systems, the times are marginally improving in comparison to those set by the V8-powered cars.

In this instance Hamilton's time was three seconds slower than the best from FP1 a year ago posted by Felipe Massa, then with Ferrari.

Behind the Mercedes pair, it was a Ferrari that was the best of the rest, with Fernando Alonso almost half a second down, followed by a confident Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India.

The German has fared strongly on his return to the Silverstone-based team this season, finishing 0.620secs behind Hamilton, and the only other driver to be within a second of the 29-year-old Briton.

As for Alonso, there was one moment of consternation when he was forced to abort a run after being sent out on three medium-compound tyres and one soft, forcing him to stop down the pitlane from where he was retrieved by his mechanics who quickly strapped on the missing medium rubber.

McLaren's Jenson Button was fifth quickest, but 1.134secs off the pace, with rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen seventh, sandwiching the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

Toro Rosso's Daniel Kvyat, Sergio Perez of Force India and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10, the latter 1.887secs down in his Red Bull.

Three teams gave their reserve drivers a run-out for the first time this season, with Williams' Felipe Nasr 13th after replacing Valtteri Bottas, finishing half a second down on team-mate and fellow Brazilian Massa in 11th.

Sauber's Giedo van der Garde, in for Esteban Gutierrez, was 18th, just three tenths of a second adrift of his team-mate Adrian Sutil.

At Caterham, Robin Frijns was 21st and quicker than bottom-of-the-pile Marcus Ericsson after stepping in for Kamui Kobayashi.

Remarkably, Caterham's GP2 car driven by Rio Haryanto was 0.025secs faster in that series' first practice session of the year than Frijns.

Just ahead of the Caterhams was Max Chilton in the Marussia, just over four seconds down on Hamilton.

Most notably, for the first time this season in a practice session, there was not a single technical issue for any of the teams to contend with.