F1 Raceweek: Hamilton with work to do, Gasly the surprise package

Lewis Hamilton will start from ninth as Sebastian Vettel sits on pole at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.   -  Getty Images

The Formula One gods have not been smiling on Lewis Hamilton in the early days of his title defence.

After the frustration of his defeat to rival Sebastian Vettel in Australia last time out, the Mercedes driver must start from ninth in Bahrain thanks to a five-place grid penalty - served due to a gearbox change - and a below-par qualifying performance.

That latest setback will hamper the Mercedes driver's chances of producing an immediate response to Vettel, who benefited from a Mercedes software glitch to beat the Briton in Melbourne.

The German starts from pole as part of a front-row Ferrari lockout alongside Kimi Raikkonen, with Valtteri Bottas third and Daniel Ricciardo benefiting from Hamilton's demotion to start fourth.

Toro Rosso rookie Pierre Gasly is next on the grid, promising an intriguing start to Sunday's race.



Joining Hamilton in starting further down the field than they might have anticipated is Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Having endured a disappointing outing of his own in Melbourne, finishing sixth after a spin early in the race, the Dutchman will start 15th after a qualifying crash.

While their lowly starting positions are will not be welcomed by the respective drivers, having two of the sport's biggest stars buried so far down the grid should make for some thrilling racing.

Verstappen has demonstrated his overtaking qualities on numerous occasions in the past, including his climb from 16th to third in China last season, and he will have to call on all that ability in Bahrain.



The prospect of seeing a Honda on the third row of the grid seemed a long way off for most of last season, as McLaren toiled frustratedly with the manufacturer.

But Gasly caught many off guard on Saturday by going sixth fastest in qualifying for Toro Rosso, meaning he will start fifth in Sunday's race.

Whether he can replicate that pace in a race scenario remains to be seen, but the fact he and team-mate Brendon Hartley went sixth and 11th quickest represents huge progress from their Q1 eliminations in Melbourne.

McLaren, meanwhile, will hope to show they have not taken a step back from two points finishes at Albert Park, after Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne qualified 13th and 14th respectively.




1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 25
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 18 (-7)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15 (-10)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 12 (-13)
5. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 10 (-15)


1. Ferrari 40
2. Mercedes 22 (-18)
3. Red Bull 20 (-20)
4. McLaren 12 (-28)
5. Renault 7 (-33)



2017: Sebastian Vettel
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton



As might be expected from a desert location, dust and heat are likely to cause more problems than any adverse weather conditions.