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.