Hamilton can deny teammate a maiden victory
Ferrari look too far away to challenge
Bahrain Grand Prix
Sky Sports F1 & Channel 4, 4pm Sunday
Lewis Hamilton’s run of pole positions came to an end at six in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying. But the three-time world champion will be pleased that the cushion to Ferrari looks much greater than has been the case at the first two races.
Valtteri Bottas claimed the first pole position of his career, a whisker ahead of Hamilton as the new-look Mercedes pairing took their first front-row lockout of the season.
Joint-championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third but had no answer as Mercedes upped the pace in the top-ten shootout.
To compound Ferrari’s misery Daniel Ricciardo split the red cars in his Red Bull, giving a strong indication that their competitive laptimes in practice were genuine.
Mechanical failures and driving errors have been rife in practice, and with gusty winds expected during the race there could be plenty of sand blowing around the circuit.
That won’t help the delicate machinery or the drivers, so we could be in for thrills and spills at a track which is always punishing on brakes in particular.
Hamilton is rated favourite, which looks fair enough. He has won 54 races to Bottas’s zero and would almost certainly have been on pole but for a mistake on his final qualifying lap.
The pole-sitter has less than a 50 per cent conversion rate at the track and while Bottas did superbly in qualifying he may have to wait to lose his maiden tag.
Lance Stroll points finish
Lance Stroll began the season with plenty to prove as the only man on the grid without an F1 start to his name.
The Canadian teenager has yet to finish a race but he has not looked out of his depth either as teammate to solid yardstick Felipe Massa at Williams.
Stroll begins the race 12th, but having set the fastest speed trap figures in practice he should have a good chance of making up ground with two Renault-powered cars starting immediately in front of him.
The billionaire’s son did brilliantly to qualify tenth in China last weekend before being taken out on the first lap through no fault of his own.
On his debut in Australia he started from the back after a disastrous Saturday but was running well in the race before brake failure led to a premature end.
Those results leave Stroll officially classified last in the standings, but a top-ten finish would do wonders for his confidence and it looks far from out of the question.
2pts 6-5 Paddy Power
L Stroll points finish
1pt 6-4 general