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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.

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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