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Hamilton expects Ferrari response in race trim for Bahrain GP

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Lewis Hamilton is anticipating a response from Ferrari in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix after Mercedes stormed to a front-row lock-out in qualifying for the first night race of the Formula 1 season.

Ferrari made up ground on Mercedes over the winter, allowing Sebastian Vettel to win the opening race of the year in Australia and tie for the lead of the championship with Lewis Hamilton after two rounds.

Despite putting up a fight for pole in the opening two qualifying sessions of the year, Ferrari failed to challenge Mercedes in Bahrain, allowing the Silver Arrows to sweep to a one-two finish.

Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position for the first time in F1 on Sunday, but Hamilton expects Ferrari to mount a fightback in the race.

“Obviously today we had a bit of a margin to the Ferraris, but generally in race trim they seem to be a little bit quicker. But I guess we’ll see tomorrow, maybe it will level out a bit more,” Hamilton said.

“It’s definitely going to be a close battle. Valtteri’s first long-runs are very good. I don’t really know how necessarily the long runs were, but I heard they were quite quick on the Ferraris. It’s definitely going to be close with all of us.

“Looking after the tires is difficult. Whether it’s a one or two-stop will be interesting to see, temperatures, all those different things. Hopefully we’ll have a great battle tomorrow.”

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

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.