Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying results: Sebastian Vettel on pole, Lewis Hamilton disaster

Max Verstappen's damaged Red Bull following a puncture

Hamilton, who will start ninth following a five-place grid penalty, said Ferrari's performance versus Mercedes in qualifying proved the engines were closely matched.

"But what can I do?" Obviously there are things we need to improve, we can improve, but it has been going fine.

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 vehicle is better, but we need to get it in the right window. Hamilton's Mercedes team are expecting fans to be treated to a twilit thriller on Sunday, tipping Red Bull to also be in the mix.

"But I will give it all I can".

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"There will be chances to do something with the strategy and I will eke out all the performance and strength I can from the auto". Ferrari changed the damaged part and Vettel rejoined but was back in the pits after a total of just eight laps and jumped out of his vehicle with more than 10 minutes remaining as Ferrari removed the engine cover and started more substantial work on his auto.

New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley complained about damage to his left front wing and soon found out why: He hit a bird. The Dutchman was furious with himself after losing control at Turn 2 and shunting into a tyre barrier before taking a ride back to the garage on a scooter.

Eight minutes later, the session resumed.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly was ninth in his own Honda-powered Toro Rosso together with Fernando Alonso, a three-times victor at Bahrain, rounding out the best 10 in his own McLaren.

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Eliminated: 16th Romain Grosjean (Haas), 17th Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), 18th Sergey Sirotkin (Williams), 19th Charles Leclerc (Sauber), 20th Lance Stroll (Williams).

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz finished in the top 10 for Renault, as did Pierre Gasly who continues to showcase Honda's surprising pace in the desert so far.

The former Red Bull driver has enjoyed a remarkable career, and this weekend will see him involved in a Formula One grand prix for the 200th time. But Hamilton, who scored two of those three wins for Mercedes and is on course to match Kimi Raikkonen's record of 27 straight points finishes this weekend, goes into the race determined to make up for his lost Australian win.

Lewis Hamilton produced the fourth fastest time at the floodlit circuit in Sakhir but the Mercedes world champion will start from ninth on the grid after picking up a five-place penalty for gearbox change.

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His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was in similar trouble and ended up sixth quickest, 0.09secs slower than Hamilton.

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