Lewis Hamilton is facing up to the prospect of Sebastian Vettel adding further daylight in their world championship battle after watching his rival storm to pole position in Bahrain.
Hamilton will line up in ninth spot for Sunday’s race after an off-colour display in qualifying was coupled with a five-place grid penalty following a gearbox change on his Mercedes.
The defending champion has been mysteriously sluggish all weekend, with Vettel’s Ferrari team dazzling in the hotter track conditions. Kimi Raikkonen will join his team-mate on the front row with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas third.
While only one of the last five pole-sitters have converted the top spot on the grid in Bahrain into a victory – and that was Hamilton back in 2015 – no driver has ever won from further back than fourth. Hamilton has also never won a race from outside the top six on the grid.
Hamilton should have taken the chequered flag in Australia a fortnight ago before a timing mix-up by his Mercedes team paved the way for Vettel to seal an unlikely victory. Now, the Briton could head to Shanghai for the next chapter of this year’s title race a week on Sunday even further behind if the German converts his pole into a second win from as many grands prix.
“It is not going to be the easiest race, but I will give it everything I have got,” Hamilton, 33, said. “The goal was to finish first today, but the Ferraris were too quick. We will try to recover from where we are, and there are a couple of different strategies we can use. I will try to eek out every last bit of power and strength from this car.”
Vettel won convincingly under the Sakhir circuit floodlights last year, and with Raikkonen effectively acting alongside him as a rear-gunner, the probability is that the German will triumph this term, too.
The four-time champion trailed Raikkonen following the opening qualifying runs in the desert, but the championship leader delivered the goods when it mattered most.
“I was very happy that I got the second run and I got it clean,” Vettel said. “The car has been excellent all weekend, so I am looking forward to the race.
“If the car is responding to what you want to do it is a pleasure to drive, otherwise it is a fight. Australia was more of a fight, but we have improved here.
“I feel good now, but tomorrow is a different story and it is a long race, but the car is quick so that helps.”
Daniel Ricciardo lines up in fifth for Red Bull, but his team-mate Max Verstappen – expected to be a contender for pole here – saw his ragged start to the new campaign continue after a 140mph shunt. The 20 year-old, who spun in Melbourne, lost control of his car on the exit of turn 2, before sliding into the barrier on the opposing side of the circuit.
A handful of bleeped-out expletives ensued from underneath the furious Dutchman’s helmet before revealing he was unhurt in the incident. Indeed, only his pride had taken a knock, as he stalked back to the paddock with his helmet still firmly on. Verstappen did manage to complete a speedy lap before his crash to spare him the indignity of propping up the grid. He will start 15th.
Ahead of him will be Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. After Silverstone, this is effectively McLaren’s second home race given their financial ties with the Bahraini royal family, but the guests that squeezed into the team’s hospitality suite were provided with a miserable showing as Alonso qualified a torrid 13th. Vandoorne was one place further back.
McLaren’s divorce from Honda power, and switch to Renault, was supposed to usher in a new era for Britain’s most successful F1 team, but their glories of yesteryear appear a distance memory. Adding insult to injury, both of the Toro Rosso cars, now powered by Honda, will start ahead of Alonso and Vandoorne. Indeed, Pierre Gasly qualified a dizzying sixth.
McLaren’s Amercian exective director Zak Brown claimed his cars would challenge Red Bull this year, but Alonso was 1.3 seconds slower than Ricciardo and nearly two seconds adrift of Vettel.
“It is a little bit worse than our expectations,” double world champion Alonso admitted. “We were hoping for better results and fighting for a spot in the top 10.
“It was a bad surprise as I didn’t expect to be that far back. Heading to this race, we had high hopes, but our starting position is now compromised.”
Racing director Eric Boullier was unavailable for comment following what the team described as an “emergency briefing”.
McLaren can take some comfort from their reserve driver Lando Norris’s display earlier in Bahrain as he stormed to victory on his Formula Two debut. But while Norris, the British teenager, provided hope that there may be life after Lewis, McLaren’s troubles only continue to deepen.
Qualifying results for the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix:
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1.27.958
- Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1.28.101
- Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 1.28.124
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1.28.220
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1.28.398
- Pierre Gasly – Toro Rosso – 1.29.329
- Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 1.29.358
- Nico Hulkenberg – Renault – 1.29.570
- Esteban Ocon – Force India – 1.29.874
- Carlos Sainz – Renault – 1.29.876
- Brendon Hartley - Toro Rosso – 1:30.105
- Sergio Perez - Force India – 1:30.156
- Fernando Alonso – McLaren – 1:30.212
- Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren – 1:30.525
- Max Verstappen – Red Bull – No Time
- Romain Grosjean – Haas – 1:30.530
- Marcus Ericsson – Sauber - 1:31.063
- Sergey Sirotkin – Williams 1:31.414
- Charles Leclerc – Sauber- 1:31.420
- Lance Stroll – Williams – 1:31.503
I’ll leave you with more Pierre Gasly, the star of the day
We’ll be back from around 3PM tomorrow for the race, which starts at 4.10PM. It’ll be an interesting start in the desert when the lights go out.
Oh! Look at his face! Just look at his face!
Another man with many reasons to smile is Pierre Gasly. He qualified in P6 and will start fifth tomorrow due to Hamilton’s penalty. His team-mate Hartley was in P11.
Hamilton speaks to Sky Sports F1
It’s not going to be the easiest tomorrow. That’s for sure. I wasn’t able to capitalise on the new tyres at the end. It is what it is and we’ll try and recover from where we are. I think it’s going to be – I’ve got the softer tyres so I should be able to go longer. I’ll try and eke out every last bit of power and strength from this car as I can.
I imagine it’ll be hard to wipe the smile off Sebastian Vettel’s face today
The Ferrari looked much more well-balanced in Bahrain and, though the gap closed since yesterday, they outclassed Mercedes in every session. It’s his 51st pole position. He starts alongside his team-mate.
Those Q3 times in full
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1.27.958
- Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1.28.101 (+0.143)
- Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 1.28.124 (+0.166)
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1.28.220 (+0.262)
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1.28.398 (+0.440)
- Pierre Gasly – Toro Rosso – 1.29.329 (+1.371)
- Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 1.29.358 (+1.400)
- Nico Hulkenberg – Renault – 1.29.570 (+1.612)
- Esteban Ocon – Force India – 1.29.874 (+1.916)
- Carlos Sainz – Renault – 1.29.876 (+2.028)
Bottas also focused on the race tomorrow
I think it’s going to be a close race. Even with the Red Bull and Lewis and Max coming from behind. We’ll see.
Raikkonen focused on tomorrow
We’ll see obviously – it’s one Saturday. Tomorrow is the main thing. It’s the time we get the points or we don’t get the points. We’ll see what we can do then.
Pole man Vettel speaks
Yeah. I mean – quite intense. Really happy that I got the second run and got it clean. I knew I needed to stay away from that curb. The car was excellent all weekend so far. If the car is responding to what you want it to do it’s a pleasure – otherwise it’s a fight. I think we improved it as well yesterday. Yeah, the car was responding so, very pleased.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL TAKES POLE FOR THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
Raikkonen can only manage P2. Bottas takes third and Hamilton in P4. Looks like Hamilton locked up on his quick lap. He will start ninth tomorrow. Disappointing. Ricciardo takes P5. Gasly in P6! He’ll start fifth tomorrow. Wow. Impressive.
Bottas splits the Ferraris with a 1.28.1. But Vettel beats it with a 1.27.958. Hamilton can only manage fourth…
Bottas goes fastest in the first sector
Can he make it stick? Vettel goes even faster in sector one…
Two-and-a-half minutes to go
Can Hamilton find something here? Can Vettel? Hamilton had a very quick last sector but Vettel lost a fair amount of time there. Raikkonen is currently in P1, I remind you.
It’s close at the top after the first runs
Raikkonen ahead of Vettel with a very narrow margin, even with the German’s mistake. Hamilton is 0.119 behind Raikkonen and Bottas 0.215 behind his compatriot. Ricciardo down in P5, Gasly in P6 and Sainz in P7. Ocon, Hulkenberg and Magnussen yet to set a time.
All cars out
Vettel is about to set a time – he runs very wide at the last turn but posts a 1.28.196. Raikkonen pips it though! He sets a 1.28.101, the quickest ever lap around here.
Can Vettel take pole? Will it be Raikkonen? Can Hamilton limit the damage from his grid penalty? We won’t have to wait long to find out.
“Yes! That’s great news,” he says over the team radio. The Toro Rosso driver has been and will be in the top 10 in every single session this weekend. What a performance he has put in.
Leclerc speaks to Sky Sports F1
“Yeah, I’m very disappointed. The weekend looked very good yesterday and we expected to do the jump we did in Melbourne from Friday to Saturday. The error in the last lap is my fault. I don’t think we would have got through to Q2. It’s a shame to do an error like this.”
Disappointment for McLaren
Eric Boullier puts some of it down to lack of grip as we see replays of Vandoorne running wide. P13 and P14 for Alonso and Vandoorne. Outqualified by both Toro Rosso Honda cars. They are quite far off Red Bull…despite Alonso’s claims earlier in the week.
Top 10 – the drivers who make it through to Q3
McLarens in danger
Vandoorne doesn’t improve his time enough to make it into the top ten. Alonso goes P11. Also not enough. Perez also misses out. Hartley goes into P11. Hamilton does not improve his time on the supersofts, so he’ll start on the soft tyres tomorrow.
Hamilton out again…on the supersoft tyres…
Interesting. Perez is about 0.2 from safety, Alonso 0.3 and Vandoorne 0.6. Can any of them make it work on their second runs?
Top 10 after the first runs of Q2
Drivers in danger with six minutes to go
Verstappen is guaranteed to be out, though, remember that. He takes no part in Q2.
Hamilton goes into P2
It’s a 1.28.458 on the harder compound tyre. That’s an impressive lap, just 0.117 behind Vettel. Bottas, meanwhile is in P5 with a 1.28.991. Gasly impressive again in P6 head of everyone outside of the top three teams.
Vettel the first to post a time in Q2
He looks good so far. Purple time in sectors one and two. And then three! He sets a 1.28.341. Raikkonen is next up with a 1.28.515. Hulkenberg sets a 1.29.861 to take P3.
Soft tyres for Hamilton…he’ll start on them tomorrow most likely
Mercedes have to try something different tomorrow with Hamilton’s grid drop of five places.
Q2 starts…five drivers will be eliminated
Grosjean, who has gone well here in the past, will be gutted with his exit in Q1. Vettel is first out, followed by the two Renaults, all three on supersoft tyres.
Top 15 after Q1 – Gasly in the top ten again!
Chequered flag – who didn’t make it through to Q2?
Fernando Alonso survives, just! He sets exactly the same time as Romain Grosjean but Alonso set his first so he goes through. Grosjean ran quite wide there an that cost him a place in Q2. Leclerc spins at the last corner. He’s out. Williams in P18 and P19.
Who is safe?
Think everyone from Perez down in P8 should be paying attention. Hulkenberg doesn’t improve his time, Sainz goes ahead of him. Alosno goes into P13, Vandoorne into P12. Ocon then goes P11! Alonso is in trouble here…
Session to restart in two minutes – 4.20PM BST
Verstappen will probably start P15 unless they need to change anything important on the car. He’s technically through to Q2 but obviously won’t take part.
Max Verstappen is in the barriers! Looks like a heavy shunt. He loses the back end of the car on exit from turn two. That came from nowhere. It wasn’t too heavy in the end but how much damage there is remains to be seen. He curses three times on the team radio.
McLaren in P12 and P16 after first runs
That’s not good. Both drivers over 1.8 seconds behind Raikkonen.
Mercedes cars set their first timed laps
Bottas is currently in P3 behind both Ferraris. Hamilton a little behind him in P4 before he’s displaced by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull who splits the Mercedes cars with a 1.29.374. Little in it between the Silver Arrows and the Red Bulls. Ricciardo goes sixth. Grosjean runs wide.
Out come the big guns
Raikkonen the first of them to set a time and he registers a 1.28.951 on the soft tyres. That’s quick. Vettel then posts a 1.29.060 despite a quicker first sector.
12 minutes left in Q1
“We have a damaged front wing”, Brendon Hartley’s engineer tells him. Magnussen goes quickest with a 1.30 flat. That’s already beaten last year’s best Q1 time. Grosjean posts a 1.31.205 – over a second behind his team-mate!
Leclerc, Ericsson and Hartley set the first times
Leclerc with a 1.31.775, Ericsson a 1.31.976, behind his team-mate. Hartley doesn’t get close to either of them as he sets a 1.32.7 after running wide in the middle sector.
Green light! Q1 starts…
The Sauber of Marcus Ericsson is first out onto the track, joined by Leclerc, in the other. Hartley’s out too in his Toro Rosso.
Can Vettel out-qualify Raikkonen?
He didn’t manage it in Melbourne and he’s been a bit behind his Finnish team-mate here. Raikkonen needs a better year in the Ferrari this year.
Ten minutes until Q1 starts
Williams look like they could be struggling to get out of the session and, you would expect, so might Sauber. Force India haven’t looked too bright, either.
McLaren vs. Toro Rosso – a tight battle?
While you may all be interested in the scrap at the front of the grid, there is an intriguing battle going on in the midfield between Toro Rosso and McLaren. Of course, it’s mostly interesting because the two teams effectively swapped engine suppliers, McLaren being hugely unhappy with their Honda power unit’s performance and reliability over three years. It’d be quite something if they could manage it here. Gasly has been on it all weekend.
David Coulthard on the future of the top two teams in the sport
Formula One can survive without Ferrari, but their threat to leave must be taken seriously. Ferrari, and indeed Mercedes, have a huge history within the sport, and they should be treated as assets to it.
Read his thoughts on Liberty Media’s proposals for the future of F1.
FP3 classification – places 11-20
11 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:31.460
12 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:31.513
13 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:31.554
14 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:31.564
15 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:31.737
16 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.859
17 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:31.860
18 Charles Leclerc (Fra) Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.047
19 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:32.463
20 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:32.865
FP3 classification – top 10
1 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1min 29.868secs
2 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:30.393
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:30.452
4 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:30.691
5 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:30.719
6 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:30.781
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:31.144
8 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:31.200
9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:31.438
10 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:31.445
Where do things stand after FP3?
Ferrari are clearly at the front, though by how much is uncertain. Mercedes haven’t yet got close, Hamilton finishing fourth and 0.8 seconds off the pace in FP3 with Bottas a further 0.1 seconds behind. Time for Party Mode? The Red Bulls were both within half a second of Ferrari and appears to have decent long-run pace.
Toro Rosso-Honda’s Pierre Gasly has finished in the top 10 in every session so far. Impressive. He was 1.570 seconds from Raikkonen in FP3 and ahead of the lead McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Williams look to be struggling, though, as they propped up the rest of the field.
The midfield, again, looks tight. Just 0.7 seconds separated Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and Stoffel Vandoorne in seventeenth.
Quick, yes, but a few minor issues for Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen has looked quick all weekend, quicker than his team-mate in FP2 and FP3. He was released with – we think – a loose wheel but escaped a grid penalty. The team were fined 5,000 euros, though. Sebastian Vettel also had a bargeboard issue in FP3, which appeared to become detached mid-way through the session.
There was a near-miss for Raikkonen with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, too, at the first turn.
Good afternoon and welcome! Who will take pole in Bahrain? It’s damage limitation for Lewis Hamilton I’m afraid
Yesterday’s second practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix threw up a little surprise, with Ferrari topping the timesheets, both their cars quicker than both Mercedes cars. Not great news for Lewis Hamilton. Worse news for Hamilton, though, was that he takes a five place grid penalty following a gearbox change. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believed the Scuderia’s pace was down to a high-power engine mode, though. Read our post-session report here.
Both Red Bulls were approximately a second off the quickest time set by Kimi Raikkonen but showed decent race pace on their long runs. Pierre Gasly performed excellently in his Toro Rosso, finishing in the top 10 in both sessions.
In third and final practice earlier today, Kimi Raikkonen was again quickest for Ferrari. Mercedes looked off the pace again. Little should be read into these times as qualifying and indeed the race are run at night under lights.
Qualifying takes an added significance for all championship contenders given Hamilton’s penalty. Vettel will want to have as many places between his car and Hamilton’s come tomorrow and Hamilton will want the opposite. Obviously. At best, though, the Briton will start sixth. It could be an interesting one.
Fingers crossed for some (or a lot) more overtaking this weekend, too. Last time out at Melbourne we had some excitement – but that was generally through team errors and not on-track overtaking. Bahrain has a few decent overtaking opportunities, though.
In terms of history at this track, Sebastian Vettel won in 2017 for Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes on pole. Stoffel Vandoorne made his points-scoring debut here for McLaren-Honda in 2016. Romain Grosjean has gone well at this track, with two podiums for Lotus in 2012 and 2013 and a fifth place for Haas in 2016.
It’s Vettel’s 200th career start, Hamilton’s 100th start for Mercedes and Bottas’s 100th Grand Prix start overall. Some milestones in the desert.
Off-track on Friday, Liberty Media presented their plans for the sport post-2020. The main proposed points were:
- Cheaper, simpler, more powerful and louder power units which reduce the necessity of grid penalties
- How teams spend the money being more important than how much money they spend
- Implementation of a cost cap
- Making cars “more raceable” and to increase overtaking opportunities
- The driver’s skill must be the main factor in the performance of the car
- A more balanced revenue distribution criteria
- Sebastian Vettel takes pole position for Bahrain GP ahead of Kimi Raikkonen
- Ferrari dominate again as Sebastian Vettel takes pole position for Chinese GP
- Sebastian Vettel claims pole position in Azerbaijan
- Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel takes pole position for Azerbaijan GP
- Gerhard Berger makes claim about Sebastian Vettel after pole in China
- F1: Sebastian Vettel seals pole for Chinese Grand Prix
- F1: Sebastian Vettel takes pole position for the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix
- Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel on pole, Lewis Hamilton second
- Sebastian Vettel wins pole for Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix; Daniel Ricciardo to start fourth
- Vettel claims pole position in Baku
- Lewis Hamilton accuses Sebastian Vettel of using illegal safety car tactics during Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- Sebastian Vettel quicker than Lewis Hamilton in final practice
- Sebastian Vettel takes Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole as Lewis Hamilton qualifies second
- Lewis Hamilton: Bottas deserved to win, but I got lucky
- Hamilton accuses Vettel of breaking safety car re-start rules, but Charlie Whiting replies: "Vettel controlled it very well"
- Daniel Ricciardo storms to Chinese Grand Prix victory for Red Bull as Lewis Hamilton finishes fourth
- Sebastian Vettel comments on the 2018 F1 title race and Hamilton's current form drop
- 2018 Azerbaijan GP: Sebastian Vettel reaction and impressions after pole in qualifying
- Lewis Hamilton says Sebastian Vettel broke the safety car re-start rules
- Lewis Hamilton accepts he was lucky to win in Azerbaijan
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