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Mercedes teammates Hamilton, Bottas free to fight for Bahrain victory

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Mercedes Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are free to fight for victory in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix after locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying.

Bottas edged Hamilton by just 0.023 seconds in the final stage of qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit to capture his first career pole in his third appearance for Mercedes.

Hamilton has enjoyed fierce fights with his Mercedes teammate before in Bahrain, most notably in 2014 when he and Nico Rosberg battled for victory.

Hamilton and Rosberg clashed twice on-track in 2016 during their title fight, leading to Mercedes to revise its rules of engagement with both drivers in a bid to deter on-track collisions between its cars.

However, Hamilton confirmed that he and Bottas are free to fight for the race win in Bahrain, so long as they remain respectful on-track.

“We’re allowed to fight. Nothing’s changed in the sense of that we’re allowed to fight,” Hamilton said.

“It’s the same as it was last year. As always it remains respectable, but we can fight hard out there. None of us want to not finish the race, so it’s just about being sensible and making sure we bring both cars home.

“But generally yeah we’re allowed to fight.”

Bottas added: “I am really happy that we are allowed to fight and I’m sure we can do it hard. Hard but fair.

“[I’ll] try to avoid what we did last year with Lewis in Turn 1, we actually collided. I’m sure we can be alright.”

“And I’m behind this time!” Hamilton noted, with third-placed Sebastian Vettel then joking: “I wouldn’t mind!”

The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 10:30am ET on Sunday.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.