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Hamilton: Ferrari’s straight-line speed made difference for pole

Bahrain Grand Prix – Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton was forced to settle for P3 in qualifying at Sakhir International Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton will line up in P3 for Sunday’s race in Bahrain. The reigning Champion was powerless to stop Ferrari claiming the front row with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, although did significantly close the gap over the course of Saturday.

Having been around a second off the pace at the end of FP3, he was able to get within three quarters of a second in Q1, half a second in Q2, before finishing around four tenths from Leclerc’s pole time in Q3.

“I really enjoyed Qualifying and it was great to see the progression for us over the weekend.” said an upbeat Hamilton straight after the session.

Paying tribute to the newest polesitter in Formula 1, he said: “Congratulations to Charles, he did a great job and deserved to get his first pole today.”

Outlining where he felt Mercedes were falling short, he explained: “We’ve seen strong pace from the Ferraris all weekend long. We’ve worked very hard to narrow that gap, but they were really fast on the straights and that’s ultimately where we lost a lot of the time today. Our car felt okay today; I think this track has never particularly suited our car in the past for whatever reason, but I think we got it into a quite good place today, so hopefully it feels good tomorrow as well.”

“It will be a very hard race, physically challenging and tough on the tyres, but our race pace was good last year, so I’m hopeful it will be good again this year. I love that it’s a close and exciting battle, that’s really how it should be.”

With Valtteri Bottas lining up P4, team boss Toto Wolff reinforced Hamilton’s opinion by saying straight line speed is where Mercedes are lacking: “P3 and P4 is a bit disappointing, but not surprising after the Free Practice sessions this weekend; we were not fast enough to fight for pole today. Ferrari have been quick all weekend so we knew it was not going to be easy and that was how it turned out.

“We are lacking in straight-line speed compared to them at this circuit, so we have to dig deep and analyse the cause. We start tomorrow’s race from the second row and we think it will be a close fight; our long-run pace looked reasonable yesterday and the tyre management will be key to tomorrow’s result. “

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Thomas Maher

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