Charles Leclerc finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel as Ferrari’s bid to relaunch their championship challenge began in perfect fashion in Bahrain.
The Italians were blown away by a dominant Mercedes team at the season-opening race in Melbourne a fortnight ago.
But on Friday Leclerc ended the first running in the desert almost one second clear of Valtteri Bottas with Lewis Hamilton a distant fourth.
Hamilton, who ran off the circuit during his first flying lap, finished nearly 1.3 seconds behind the Ferrari driver.
The times should be treated with more than a degree of caution given that the afternoon heat is not representative of the cooler conditions for both qualifying and the race which take place in the evening.
Indeed, the day’s final session, which gets under way at 6pm local time, should provide a greater indicator of all the drivers’ outright pace.
But nevertheless the Ferrari pit wall will have breathed a collective sigh of relief after seeing rivals Mercedes top every practice session in Melbourne, before Hamilton put his Silver Arrows on pole and team-mate Bottas galloped to a convincing win.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished fifth, 1.3secs behind Leclerc, and ahead of his team-mate Pierre Gasly in sixth.
The event in the Gulf is effectively a second home race for a McLaren team owned by the Bahraini royal family, and following a rather underwhelming opening to their year at Albert Park, Carlos Sainz finished an encouraging seventh.
His team-mate, the British teenager Lando Norris, was 15th, a full second slower.
Williams are having a grim time of it this year. Their car was not ready in time for testing, and a fortnight ago they were comfortably the slowest team.
Their troubles continued here, with British novice George Russell spinning en route to 19th, 3.8secs off the pace. Team-mate Robert Kubica was last.