Lewis Hamilton on pole position at Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel second

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton takes pole for Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain Grand Prix
Venue: Bahrain International Circuit Dates: 17-19 April
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC television, BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra, plus text commentary on BBC Sport website

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton took his fourth straight pole position in 2015 as he beat Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying.

Hamilton displaced Vettel by 0.411 seconds with the very last lap of the session as the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg could manage only third.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen fended off the threat from Williams's Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa to go fourth.

The result sets up a fascinating race between Mercedes and Ferrari on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton managed to achieve his 42nd career pole in Bahrain

Ferrari have shown stronger race pace than Mercedes in practice and the grand prix, which starts at 16:00 BST and is live across the BBC, could be decided on which team can make their tyres last best.

That was the decisive factor when Vettel beat Hamilton to take a surprise victory in the second race of the season in Malaysia three weeks ago.

"I feel great," said Hamilton. "I'm really grateful to have this beast underneath me to attack these corners."

Hamilton revels in Bahrain pole

"I was thinking too much about the race and I under-estimated Sebastian's speed," said Rosberg. "I took it easy in Q2 to save the race tyres, so I lacked the rhythm for Q3. That's where I went wrong today. Being third is not ideal."

Rosberg's failure to join his team-mate on the front row raises the possibility of Mercedes using him to help defend Hamilton's lead in the race, a strategy that team boss Toto Wolff has said might be used if the team were facing a strong challenge from Ferrari.

Wolff said before qualifying: "We had a solid gap last year which allowed us to keep the strategy always very neutral.

Vettel delighted with excellent result

"This year because Ferrari is clearly there and have won a race and will be very quick around here we could split the strategies in order to win the race. I wish I could guarantee a one-two but it is not going to be the case easy."

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who gave his team by far their best grid result of the year.

Two other notable performances came from Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz, who took ninth ahead of Lotus's Romain Grosjean, and Fernando Alonso, who got a McLaren-Honda into second qualifying for the first time this season.

Andrew Benson on Bahrain
From the smog and traffic chaos of Shanghai, F1's circus travels to the monochrome backdrop of Bahrain, where everything - from sky to buildings to desert - seems to be a particular shade of beige.
But if you can forget the location and the nagging questions over human rights, Bahrain has come into its own in recent years, once you are inside the track.
Turning it into a night race suits it, and what is effectively a karting track writ large, with only one demanding fast corner, has thrown up some decent races - none better than the fantastic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg last year.

The Spaniard was ninth in first qualifying and was 14th in second qualifying, when he improved by 0.2secs on his Q1 time.

Alonso's team-mate Jenson Button will start last after his car broke down on his first lap out of the pits.

Button said: "It's a shame. I had good pace in practice - I was 11th and there was more to come. I can't say what's wrong. I'm guessing it was electrical; the car just shut down."

There were some big scalps in first qualifying as both Pastor Maldonado - who had been the quicker Lotus driver all weekend - and Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat were eliminated.

Maldonado suffered an engine problem and will start 16th, while Kvyat's 17th place was a reflection of a dire weekend so far and a torrid start to his career with Red Bull after being promoted following a strong debut season with Toro Rosso last year.

Britain's Will Stevens was the faster of the two drivers in the back-of-the-grid Manor team, beating team-mate Roberto Merhi by a second, and will start 18th.

Bahrain GP qualifying results

Bahrain GP coverage details

Bahrain GP
Hamilton took pole in Bahrain for the first time in his career
Jenson Button
McLaren driver Jenson Button broke down in the first qualifying session and will start last on Sunday
Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will start in second place on the grid
Carlos Sainz
Toro Rosso's Carlo Sainz will start ninth

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