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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.

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”