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F1 Bahrain GP: Hamilton strikes back with stunning Bahrain pole

Lewis Hamilton takes a second consecutive pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix as elimination qualifying gets another closely-observed outing
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Lewis Hamilton will start the Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position after dragging himself off the back foot to deny team-mate Nico Rosberg the top spot by less than a tenth.

As the heavily panned elimination qualifying format got its closely-observed second outing, Hamilton came into the session seemingly chasing his team-mate Nico Rosberg, only to then put himself under more pressure when he ran wide out of the final corner on his first flying lap in Q3.

Forcing him to go out again or face starting fourth, the defending champion nonetheless hit straight back by hooking up a magnificent lap in the Mercedes W07. Saving himself from elimination to go top with a 1min 29.493secs lap, the remarkable effort is more than two seconds faster than his own pole position from 2015.

With Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Rosberg – who was fastest on the first run – following up behind him, each would fail to unseat him, the latter falling less than a tenth short to nonetheless ensure an all-Mercedes front row.

Indeed, the closeness of the top four, coupled to their advantage over the field which allowed them another set of tyres to go out twice, meant Q3 proceeded without as much criticism as it did in Australia, even if the session was effectively over three minutes before the chequered flag, while live social media comments proved critical

Behind the top four, Daniel Ricciardo produced a fine lap in the Red Bull to qualify in fifth position, heading off the two Williams', Valtteri Bottas leading Felipe Massa, while Nico Hulkenberg completed the Q3 runners in eighth.

Prior to Q3, Q2 followed a similar pattern to Australia, with the emphasis placed on the opening wave of laps, with the only change coming from Hulkenberg as his second effort lifted him into Q3.

That was enough to demote Romain Grosjean to what remains a very strong ninth place for Haas in the team's second race – a position that in turn opens up its strategic options -, ahead of the two Toro Rossos in 10th and 11th, Max Verstappen leading Carlos Sainz.

Arguably the most interesting development of Q2 was Stoffel Vandoorne out-qualifying Jenson Button on his debut, the Belgian a solid 12th and two positions up on his more experienced McLaren team-mate. They were split by Esteban Gutierrez in 13th, while Daniil Kvyat – out in Q1 in Australia – flopped again, down in 15th.

With a better understanding of the elimination format, Q1 went off without too many hitches and though the opening laps for the fastest contenders saw them progress with ease, the busier mid-pack endured a more fraught session.

With Felipe Nasr eliminated first to start in 22nd place, he was followed by Rio Haryanto and the two Renaults, though Kevin Magnussen is due to start from the pit lane anyway after being punished for missing the weighbridge in FP2.

However, all eyes were on Manor's Pascal Wehrlein, whose second run was good enough to lift him up to 16th position – not quite enough to get the team through to Q2 on pace alone for the first time in its F1 tenure, but enough to see him out-pace the Force India of Sergio Perez, who was the big casualty in 18th behind Marcus Ericsson.

by Ollie Barstow

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