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Mercedes was caught out in the cold on March 25 in Melbourne when Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel won ahead of Hamilton thanks to a pitstop miscalculation.

Vettel whooped with joy as he crossed the finish line, although his team's celebrations were more low-key than usual following the mechanic's hospitalization.

"I think I came on the radio with ten laps to go, "I have everything under control" - I don't think they broadcast that one", he admitted. "If we have the same vehicle on Sunday that we had in Melbourne on Sunday, I think we'll be very close". Really happy I got the second run and got it clean.

His hopes of chalking up a third Bahrain win on Sunday have already taken a hit, with the Briton set to drop five places on the grid for an unscheduled gearbox change on his Mercedes.

"I don't know what shape he is in", Raikkonen, dubbed the "Ice Man" for his taciturn nature, told reporters immediately afterwards. He admitted that this weekend was now going to be a case of damage limitation.

"I started ninth so third is not bad at all", Hamilton said.

Daniel Ricciardo will line-up in fourth place for Red Bull Racing, with his teammate Max Verstappen back in 15th after he crashed in the first part of qualifying.

The Finn pulled away before the left-rear had been changed and struck a mechanic's leg, while Raikkonen stopped in the pitlane with three new tyres and the unchanged old one on his vehicle and retired.

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Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo put in a scorcher of a lap to be fifth and just a few tenths off the pace from Hamilton, showing how fast his vehicle is this season. Fairly galling, then, for McLaren-Renault drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso, who start behind both Toro Rosso-Honda cars.

Force India's Esteban Ocon managed to have a respectable top ten place on the grid while teammate Sergio Perez will be starting eleventh.

The race began with temperatures falling from 29 and 35 degrees Celsius respectively for air and track.

Vettel started on the front row with Raikkonen, and Bottas started third.

After a near-certain victory in Melbourne was lost due to a software malfunction, Lewis Hamilton will be looking for redemption this week in what will be his 100th start for Mercedes.

It was feared he would be punished for an unsafe release - because his front right wheel was not attached properly - and given a grid penalty, but instead Ferrari were fined €5 000. A Virtual Safety Car was deployed.

Verstappen pitted and re-joined, but his race was over when, like Ricciardo, he stopped and retired. The German driver who has four world championship titles under his belt set a time of 1min 27.958sec to claim his 51st career pole after a close battle with Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. "But just. There wasn't much.at the end of the straight Valtteri had a bit of a sniff but fortunately he ran out of laps".

Kimi Raikkonen has given his version of events following a botched Ferrari pit stop that left a mechanic hospitalised.


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