Hamilton eases to fourth straight pole position in Bahrain


Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix from the front of the grid after dominating all three parts of Saturday’s qualifying session to claim his fourth consecutive pole position in 2015.

The defending Formula 1 world champion posted a fastest lap time of 1:32.571 to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by four-tenths of a second in Q3, as his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg faded to third place in the final part of qualifying.

Despite having never started from pole position before in Bahrain, Hamilton was unbeatable throughout qualifying as he topped Q1, Q2 and Q3 to send out a firm warning shot to the chasing pack.

With tire management being a key concern for teams ahead of tomorrow’s race, a number of drivers tried to get through Q1 and into the second stage of qualifying without using a set of the option tires. Nico Rosberg was the pace setter on the medium compound Pirellis, but even his lap was not enough to stop Mercedes from fitting its drivers with a set of softs for a second run in Q1.

Rosberg continued his good pace following the switchover, but could not match teammate Lewis Hamilton, whose P1 time was half a second quicker than the rest of the field. Ferrari only sent Vettel out for one run in qualifying, but it was enough to easily get him up into the top ten and sure of a place in the second session.

Further back, Jenson Button’s Bahrain woes continued as he stopped out on track without setting a time, leaving him at the back of the grid for the race. Manor’s qualifying went as expected, with both Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi being eliminated, but a surprise drop-out was Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, who finished 17th behind Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado.

Hamilton refused to rest on his laurels heading into Q2, going eight-tenths faster than the rest of the pack with his first lap to secure his place in the final pole position shootout. Ferrari opted to complete just one run again, heading out when the track was empty to get Raikkonen and Vettel into second and fourth place respectively.

Sauber chose to limit itself to just one run at the end of the session, and although both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson did get into the top ten with their first laps, they were soon bumped down and out of qualifying. Max Verstappen could only finish 15th for Toro Rosso due to a lack of power, but his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr, did manage to work his way into the top ten and secure a place in Q3. Sergio Perez lost out as a result in P11, but Fernando Alonso had managed to secure McLaren’s first Q2 appearance, eventually finishing 14th.

With tire management crucial again in Q3, all of the drivers except for Daniel Ricciardo opted to head out on a used set of Pirellis. Ricciardo put his fresh soft compound tires to good use, posting the second quickest time from the first runs, with only Hamilton ahead. Even on a scrubbed set of tires, the defending world champion was laying down an ominous pace in Q3.

Now fitted with fresh tires for his final run, Rosberg did his best to put up a fight to his teammate, but could only go P2 with his last lap in qualifying behind the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who was now on provisional pole. However, the German’s joy did not last long as Hamilton crossed the line at the end of Q3 to go four-tenths of a second quicker and take his fourth pole position of the season.

Kimi Raikkonen did his best to underpin Vettel’s strong result by qualifying fourth, just behind Rosberg, whilst Williams finished in its usual positions of P5 and P6. Ricciardo eventually faded to seventh in Q3 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz Jr and Romain Grosjean who rounded out the top ten.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”