F1 champ Lewis Hamilton hit with penalty in Bahrain

Kristopher Nichols
April 7, 2018

Hamilton's progress this weekend has taken a hit on Friday night after it was revealed he would take a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox before the mandatory six races elapsed.

Gearboxes must last for six successive races according to the rules.

He is out of contract at the end of a season in which he will seek to secure his fourth Formula One drivers' title in five years.

Ahead of the season opener in Melbourne, Hamilton gave the latest update on his contract discussions, stating: "We've been talking and will continue to talk".

"Unfortunately we couldn't fix the box within the six-race cycle so need to take a fresh one, incurring the grid penalty".

Prior to discovering the problem, uncomfortable with both their lack of pace and the strong pace shown by Ferrari throughout the day, Mercedes technical director James Allison had said, "Although we were untroubled by any reliability issues, and we ran through our program as expected, it wasn't our best day from a performance point of view".

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The defending F1 champion finished fourth, just behind Bottas.

"The vehicle feels OK, but we still need to find some pace, especially for a single lap", Bottas said. He escaped a grid penalty and Ferrari was instead fined 5,000 euros ($6,100).

Both sessions on Friday were topped by different drivers, with Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull leading the way in the first session before Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the second for Ferrari.

The Australian was 0.3 seconds quicker than Bottas and 0.4 seconds faster than Raikkonen. He got out and helped stewards wheel it back to the team garage.

"You can see that when you overlay the data, suddenly on the straights they gain much more time, and in the corners it's still the same. It meant that I spent the beginning of the second session searching for the balance of the vehicle", Verstappen said.

Vettel won in Melbourne by profiting from an error by Mercedes to finish ahead of Hamilton, who was leading from pole before his team misjudged Vettel's entrance into the pits after a virtual safety auto was deployed.

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