Daniel Ricciardo opened the 2024 Formula One season with the fastest time for the rebranded Visa Cash App RB team in Thursday’s first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Australian steered his RB around the 5.4km Sakhir desert track in one minute 32.869 seconds on a cool and sunny afternoon pipping McLaren’s Lando Norris by 0.032 seconds.

Norris's Australian team mate Oscar Piastri was third ahead of the second RB of Yuki Tsunoda. The Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri team have changed their name to Visa Cash App RB.

The running order in the opening session was unrepresentative of the true state of play, with three of the top four setting their best times on the soft tyres and the race run under the floodlights in the evening.

Red Bull's reigning champion Max Verstappen, complaining of trouble while shifting down through the gears, still heads into the weekend as the runaway favourite despite setting the sixth fastest time behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

George Russell was the quickest Mercedes in seventh ahead of the lead Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in eighth.

Lewis Hamilton, embarking on his final season with Mercedes before his move to Ferrari in 2025, was ninth with former team mate Valtteri Bottas rounding out the top 10 for Sauber.

Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez was 12th quickest behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, whose seat Hamilton is due to take.

Alpine and Haas propped up the timesheets with Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg occupying the bottom four spots on the timesheets.

The season-opening race will be held on Saturday, with qualifying on Friday.

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle, editing by Ken Ferris)