Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton braced for hard race - and close season

Rob Smedley speaks to Martin Brundle

Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix following a gearbox change on his Mercedes late on Friday in another early season setback for the world champion.

Red Bull, meanwhile, suffered a disastrous race as it suffered its first double retirement since 2010, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen dropping out early.

Bottas did close to within a second on Vettel at the death but did not have quite enough to pass. Ferrari had taken a chance that Vettel could make the rubber work to the end and it proved to be an inspired decision and the German brought his auto home to claim the win. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1:15.046 6.

With Verstappen out, Hamilton expertly jumped up three places, passing Sebastian Ocon (Force India), Fernando Alonso (McLaren) and Nico Hulkenberg (Renault). This was after the red flag delay generated through Verstappen's accident and resultant clean-up, but none of the top five drivers improved in the final five minutes once the session restarted. It has since been revealed that an offline tool with a bug caused Mercedes to believe that Hamilton was safe in the lead when Vettel pitted under the virtual safety vehicle. Race director Charlie Whiting red-flagged the session while the stricken Red Bull was recovered, with Verstappen climbing out of the vehicle and reporting he was unscathed.

'I go when the light is green and I don't see what happens behind. But that came courtesy the timely deployment of the virtual safety auto with Hamilton, until then, set to wrap up a comfortable victory in his Mercedes which had a clear edge over Vettel's Ferrari all weekend.

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It was left to Mercedes and Ferrari to go at it but Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen was forced out of the race after his car's front-left wheel got jammed on to the wheel during a pitstop and he was still given the go ahead to exit his pit-box.

"A bit sad because one of our mechanics got injured", Vettel said. The team subsequently tweeted that he had been transported to a nearby hospital for further treatment.

The two Ferrari men were comfortably clear by more than half a second of the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and his team-mate and defending champion Briton Lewis Hamilton. Bottas starts third for Mercedes, but Hamilton will start in ninth place after a penalty. The Dane was almost taken out by his teammate Romain Grosjean at Turn 1 after his pit-stop and then spent a lap bottled up behind him - leading to several bleeps of the TV world feed censor over the radio. The big news of the evening was Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who with a rejuvenated Honda engine, placed his Toro Rosso in fifth position. In the other McLaren, Vandoorne also missed the cut along with Perez and Brendon Hartley who at least ensured that both Toro Rossos out-paced the McLarens.

There were also celebrations at Sauber, with Sweden's Marcus Ericsson finishing ninth for his first points since 2015 and the Swiss team's first of the season, but gloom at Williams whose drivers finished last.

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