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Lewis Hamilton hopes for 'fun' Bahrain Grand Prix after sacrificing qualifying pace for season-opening F1 race

Lewis Hamilton could be a driver on the charge from ninth on the Bahrain Grand Prix grid after setting his car up for the race; watch 2024's season-opening race on Saturday at 3pm, with build-up from 1.30pm, live on Sky Sports F1

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton explains why he hopes his set-up decisions for the Bahrain GP can turn his weekend around

Lewis Hamilton has revealed he went in a different direction with set-up compared to Mercedes team-mate George Russell in a bid to be stronger in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton will start ninth for the season-opening race, which begins at 3pm on Sky Sports F1 and NOW, after a disappointing qualifying.

But Russell qualified in third and was just 0.078s away from a front-row spot as Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc to pole position.

"It was not great. But I was genuinely really excited to be here," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

"I think George's position and pace really highlights, and is a real testament to the team, how hard everyone has worked over the winter. It's amazing to have a car we can fight with.

"It really ignites the fire and flame within us drivers. For me, Bono [Peter Bonington] and everyone did a great job, and I struggled in qualifying."

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There's plenty to look forward to on Sky Sports F1 as the start of the 2024 season edges closer

Mercedes had an encouraging one-two in second practice and came into the week with more confidence compared to 12 months ago with a redesigned car.

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Hamilton, who will leave Mercedes to join Ferrari at the end of this year, has the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri directly in front of him, plus Fernando Alonso.

"Thursday, was really good. Me and George were on the same set-ups but he went 'left' and I went 'right'. 'Right' was definitely not good for a single lap but I felt more comfortable with more fuel, so I hope that reflects in the race," he continued

"I've definitely sacrificed more than I hoped to and I hope it pays off. It's a lot of work to do to get past all those quick cars ahead of me but it will be fun."

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff hopes he can help Lewis Hamilton win a record eighth World Championship in his last year with the team

Russell: The fight is with nine drivers

Mercedes failed to win a race for the first time in 12 years in 2023 and Hamilton has not won since the end of 2021.

Russell was 59 points down on Hamilton and only took two podiums last season but was happy to be so close to the front on Friday.

"After testing we would have 100 per cent taken this P3, the team have done an amazing job since testing. So many hours on the sim, going over the data, making small improvements, and we saw how tight it is between five teams, bar Max," said Russell.

"We know Red Bull are a step ahead of everybody and that's exciting knowing that if you put the lap together and find the extra tenth, that's a number of positions and fortunately today we were just on the right side of it."

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George Russell was delighted to qualify third in Bahrain, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is optimistic their cars will perform well in Saturday's race

Mercedes say they are still learning about their new car but are in a better position to challenge Red Bull this season.

Their practice long run pace suggests there will be a big fight behind Verstappen, who Russell thinks will be difficult to beat.

Asked if a Verstappen retirement was the only realistic way Mercedes could win, Russell added: "I think that's the only option, he's got such a stable platform.

"He's one of the best ever and we know how difficult it is to finish ahead of them, so realistically the fight is for second. What's great is the fight is probably with nine drivers, if only that was on course for victory, we probably would have seen the best season on F1 ever, so let's just pretend he's not here and P2 is the one that is the important one."

Sky Sports F1's live Bahrain GP schedule

Saturday March 2

  • 8.55am: F3 Feature Race
  • 10.25am: F2 Feature Race
  • 1.30pm: Bahrain GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 5pm: Bahrain GP reaction: Chequered Flag
  • 6pm: Ted's Notebook
  • 6.30pm: Bahrain GP highlights

Watch every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix this week, with the opening race on Saturday at 3pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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