Lewis Hamilton storms to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain

Mercedes driver finishes four tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel

 Lewis Hamilton  drives his Mercedes during   qualifying for the Bahrain  Grand Prix. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton drives his Mercedes during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

 

Lewis Hamilton made it pole position for the fourth time in a row for the first time in his Formula One career with a storming performance in the desert in Bahrain.

Hamilton was quickest in all three qualifying sessions, with no-one holding a candle to the reigning champion under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit.

With a stunning lap of one minute 32.571secs in his Mercedes, Hamilton finished four tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Rosberg a further 0.147secs adrift.

It is now 15 consecutive poles for Mercedes – nine behind the record of 24 set by Williams.

It was also Hamilton’s first pole in Bahrain, and on this form the win will follow as the 30-year-old was sensational when it mattered most.

Kimi Raikkonen, who has struggled in qualifying this season, will line up fourth – more worthy of the car beneath him.

Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, as expected, will occupy the third row in fifth and sixth positions respectively.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo lines up seventh and Nico Hulkenberg eighth, the German impressively claiming Force India’s first top-10 grid slot of the season given their struggles with a car that will not be updated until June.

Carlos Sainz Jr starts ninth in his Toro Rosso, with Romain Grojsean 10th for Lotus.

Force India’s Sergio Perez will line up 11th, followed by Sauber duo Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and 17-year-old Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso.

For McLaren, given the woes they have endured this season with the arrival of Honda as power-unit supplier, it was the first time this year they have managed to get a car into Q2.

While that was the positive for the team to enjoy, the negative was the sight of team-mate Jenson Button retiring his car minutes into the session.

After a wretched Friday of practice in which Button stopped on track in both sessions, the 35-year-old suffered a hat-trick of failures.

On his out lap in Q1 and after just three corners, Button ground to a halt again, pulling off track to the frustration of watching team boss Ron Dennis, who flapped his arms against his sides.

Button will line up 20th and last, his lowest grid slot since the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, when he was driving for Honda.

“It was a power cut,” Button said. “Don’t know where it came from. It’s a shame because after FP3 we thought the car was doing pretty well.”

Ahead of Button are Manor duo Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi in 18th and 19th, with a staggering second between the 23-year-old and his Spanish team-mate.

Surprisingly, Daniil Kvyat also exited and starts 17t, the first time a Red Bull has dropped out of Q1 for almost three years.

Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado’s bad luck shows no sign of ending as an engine issue means the Venezuelan is 16th when it appeared as if a top-10 slot was on the cards, as was the case for team-mate Grosjean.

“I feel great, very happy,” Hamilton said after taking top spot on the grid.

“Coming into the weekend the target was to master this track, get comfortable, and that generally is how the weekend has gone.

“I’m really grateful to have this beast under me, to be able to really attack the corners.”

Hamilton, though, is wary of Ferrari as he said: “They’ll be hard to beat. They’ve great race pace.

“We’ll be taking all measures to make sure the tyres last as long as they do, but we’re in a good position.”

Vettel also declared himself “very happy” with second, and feels he can give Hamilton a run for his money.

“It was a tough session,” the German said. “At the beginning I didn’t find the rhythm I had in practice, but it was getting better, I was feeling happier in the car.

“I felt more comfortable to push. We’re on the front row, and in the race I feel we can get closer.”

Rosberg, on pole for the previous two years for this race, blamed poor tyre management on his side for his third-place grid slot.

“I got it wrong, thinking too much about the race and I underestimated Seb’s speed,” he said.

“I just lacked rhythm, and I’m disappointed Seb beat me.

“If I’d been second that would have been damage limitation, but third is not really not ideal.”

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