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

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

The British star had wound up fourth fastest earlier in Friday’s second free practice session at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen was fastest as he and Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel dominated the session ahead of the two Mercedes, headed by Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton’s setback in his bid to overhaul Vettel’s early-season lead in the title race – following his victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix – was confirmed by the International Motoring Federation (FIA), the sport’s ruling body.

Bottas also had a new gearbox fitted on Friday evening, but escaped a grid penalty because he had already been penalised in Australia.

Four-time world champion Hamilton, who created a minor controversy when he showed his approval on social media earlier in the day of the retention of grid girls at the Monaco Grand Prix, said before his penalty had been announced that it had been “a normal Friday”.

“It’s very close and we have some work to do. The tyres feel the best they have here in years, very stable with less degradation.”

Mercedes technical director James Allison said after Friday practice that the team were not as competitive in relation to Ferrari as they had been in Melbourne.

“It wasn’t our best day,” he said. “We’ve got more to do overnight and in the practice tomorrow (Saturday) to five us a car that can fight in qualifying and on Sunday.

“The base for us is ok, but we don’t have the edge we had in Melbourne.”

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Lewis Hamilton to wait for F1 plans before committing to new Mercedes deal

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Lewis Hamilton is keen to see Formula One’s long-awaited blueprint for the future before he signs a new contract with Mercedes, the world champion said on Thursday.

Briefing reporters ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the 33-year-old Briton said he wanted to see what the sport would be like in 2020 and beyond before he reached a final decision.

The four-time world champion said he was “relaxed” about his position and was not feeling any stress or concerns.

“We’re still in discussions,” Hamilton said.

“I’m very relaxed about it. There’s not really much to say. I’m not really in a rush. We’re just taking our time, talking about it as and when we want to it.

“It’s not a stressful thing for either of us. It’s quite an interesting time for F1.

“Tomorrow (Friday) there’s some sort of announcement or discussions of what is happening in F1 moving forward. It’s always good to wait to hear some of those and see the future of F1.

“For sure, that could or could not have an impact on decisions you make in terms of length or whatever it is you end up doing in F1.”

He said he was not suggesting that he had any specific concerns in mind.
“I’m not hinting at anything like that. I am an integral part of F1 so it’ll be great to know how it will sit for us all.

“Maybe it will affect the driver market. Maybe not — that’s why I’m interested.

“It’s actually come at a pretty good time because I still haven’t put pen to paper so I think it’s good for the team and good for us.

“I think it’s important we do take our time because you should never rush anything. The team is not saying they are talking to other drivers. I’ve never, since I’ve been with the team, gone and spoken to another team.”

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Lewis Hamilton top of the charts in Australian GP practice

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World champion Lewis Hamilton took up where he left off last season with the fastest lap times in opening practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Friday.

Hamilton followed up his opening practice best time of one minute 24.026 seconds with 1:23.931 in the second session to hold a 0.127sec gap over Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen (1:24.058).

Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas (1:24.159) was third in Melbourne in the first exchanges of the new Formula One season.

The Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikonnen and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth respectively and between 0.3-0.5secs down on Hamilton’s time ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.

Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo in a Red Bull was seventh fastest in 1:24.721.

Hamilton’s long-run pace looked superior on the ultrasoft tyres, reeling off a steady run of 1:28s, but race pace simulations showed little between the three leading teams.

Red Bull managed to lap in the high 1:28s with Ferrari in the low 1:29s.

Verstappen and Bottas both used soft tyres for the final few minutes of the second practice session, while Raikkonen was on the supersoft for Ferrari.

Hamilton is gunning for his fifth world title this year, an achievement which would match the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and leave him just two adrift of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.

Bottas and Raikkonen faced the stewards after the session to explain a coming together, when Bottas had to take to the gravel to avoid running into the Ferrari.

The surprise of the opening day was the performance of the Haas team to challenge for the fourth-fastest team on the back of two strong showings from Romain Grosjean.

The second session was halted briefly after a cable was ripped up from underneath the start/finish line, and resumed after officials cut loose the wire.

A fired-up Fernando Alonso yelled down the McLaren team radio: “Maybe because of the halo the people stop looking into their mirrors!” after a close shave with some of his rivals early in the session.

The halo, a safety bar above the cockpit to protect drivers, is a new innovation this season.

Provided by AFP Sport

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