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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.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.