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.