08 Abril, 2018
Lewis Hamilton will have to do what no Formula One driver has ever done to win tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix after an unscheduled gearbox change left the Mercedes driver facing a five-place grid penalty.
Valtteri Bottas improved from his soft tyre run by less than a tenth of a second while Hamilton had traffic on his two laps. "We had an hydraulic leak in (the last) Melbourne race and were fortunate to finish the race", a Mercedes spokesman said.
Hamilton still enjoyed an advantage of more than 0.6s in qualifying and was comfortably quicker in the race as well until a mid-race virtual safety car handed Vettel an unexpected victory. And that in the race we might have a slight edge on them.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo started in eighth after a grid penalty but had made his way to fourth and caught Raikkonen whom he pushed hard, before the Australian opted to settle for fourth place.
Hamilton is yet to agree a new deal with Mercedes. "Ultimately you want to have all the information so that you can make the most knowledgeable decision", the 33-year-old Hamilton said.
"Maybe it affects the driver market, maybe it doesn't".
Similarly, Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are able to start with new gearboxes having failed to finish in Melbourne. "You should never ever rush it. The team is not saying they are talking to other drivers and since I've been with the team I've never spoken to another team", he added.
But Hamilton's situation with Mercedes is perhaps the most intriguing despite the fact that it is almost certain that he will end up signing a new contract to remain with the team.
"There is an announcement to be made and it is interesting to hear what is happening as I am an integral part of it", he said.
"It's actually come at a pretty good time because I still haven't put pen to paper so I think it's good for the team and good for us".
If this is combined at the sharp end with increased concerns over engine longevity, the first half of the season may prove to be one of cagey, tactical conservatism rather than all-out racing.
"It's a joint thing".