Lewis Hamilton suffers Bahrain GP blow with five-place grid penalty

Lewis Hamilton suffers Bahrain GP blow with five-place grid penalty

Lewis Hamilton, who faces a five-place grid penalty this weekend courtesy of an unscheduled gearbox change, was fourth fastest for Mercedes and was 0.023 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel who ended the session in fifth fastest despite having limited running after a bargeboard failure in the early part of the session followed by an apparent engine issue in the closing stages.

Kimi Raikkonen was the fasted of the two Ferrari drivers coming in third just a tenth behind the Mercedes while teammate Sebastian Vettel was just a hair's breadth back in fourth place.

Even the Finn, who additionally stopped opening afternoon of clinic quickest, lapped the 5.4-km Sakhir race trail at a time of one minute 29.868 minutes, not much off his Friday benchmark.

Bahrain is a power circuit, so you might have expected the Mercedes cars of Hamilton and Bottas to dominate qualifying. "First run in Q3 I was very happy and then I tossed it away last corner". Referring to Hamilton's comments in Saturday's press conference, Vettel said: "He said he was joking and I believe him". Despite making a small improvement, Vettel found 0.063s more on his own attempt to sneak ahead in the closing seconds.

In a further boost for Ferrari, the aging Kimi Raikkonen has looked sharp all weekend, leading the second and third practice.

Raikkonen set the fastest time in Free Practice Two but looked as though he might lose his spot at the top of the times when he was forced to pull over due to a loose front wheel. I know exactly what I want, and we need to work on it.




He heads into Sunday's race on course to become the first driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to open the season with consecutive wins for Ferrari.

He was about a half-second quicker than the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. We love racing and we try to do our best, once we're in the vehicle and beat all the others.

Esteban Ocon returned Force India to the top ten for the first time this year with a solid performance to edge the second Renault of Carlos Sainz by 0.112s.

And the race, scheduled for Sunday, starts at twilight and finishes under lights in order to avoid most of the heat of the day.

Pierre Gasly exceeded expectations by finishing sixth on the timesheets for Toro Rosso and there was huge disappointment for McLaren, with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne 13th and 14th respectively.

Sadly, Williams were also-rans in qualifying, with Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll starting tomorrow's race in 18th and 20th.

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