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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Vettel 'chuffed' after claiming pole for Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari lock out front row

There was disappointment for world champion Lewis Hamilton, who received a five-place grid penalty

Sebastian Vettel in action during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
Sebastian Vettel in action during qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Two weeks ago when Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix, he acknowledged fortune had played a part in his victory in the opening race of the season.

But luck did not play a part on Saturday at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the German took pole position for Sunday’s race with a lap of 1 minute, 27.958 seconds in the final seconds of the qualifying session.

Vettel is now well placed to open up a commanding early lead in the championship as world champion Lewis Hamilton was only fourth quickest, but will start ninth due to a five-place penalty for a gearbox change made after practice on Friday.

“The car is quick and that usually helps," Vettel, a four-time world champion, said in his post-qualifying interview.

“For now I’m chuffed and for the team as well as we had some issues this morning and we overcame them.”

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Ferrari have upset the form book by being the quickest package during the weekend. Vettel’s biggest threat to his 51st pole came from his own teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who had been quicker then the German on the first runs in the final part of qualifying.

But Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, failed to improve on his final run as he struggled to find a response to his teammate’s effort.

It is Ferrari’s first pole in Bahrain since Felipe Massa topped the timesheets in 2008 and ended a stranglehold over qualifying for the race by Mercedes-GP.

The German marque have taken pole position for the past five years, but face a tall order to win the race this year.

Valtteri Bottas was third, and out-qualified Hamilton in the process, but was 0.166 seconds off the pace of Vettel.

“The red cars were too quick so we're not happy with that," Bottas said. "So we'll have to do better tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo will line-up in fourth place for Red Bull Racing, with his teammate Max Verstappen back in 15th after he crashed in the first part of qualifying.

The Dutchman has said he will struggle to get a top-six finish on raw pace alone in the race.

“It was a bit unfortunate,” Verstappen said of the crash. “It spun quite aggressively, I didn’t anticipate it. “A little bit of luck with the safety car would be good tomorrow.”

The surprise package of qualifying was Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso. He was sixth quickest and will line-up fifth, with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, the Renault of Nico Huldenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon also benefitting from Hamilton’s grid penalty.

Hamilton admitted it was now a case of damage limitation for the race and trying to minimise the potential points loss to championship leader Vettel.

“It is what it is and we will try to recover from where we are,” said the four-time world champion.

“I’ve got the softer tyre so I should be able to go longer [before pitting]. There are a couple of different strategies tomorrow so I will try and eek out every last bit of power and strength from the car.”

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