Formula One: Lewis Hamilton handed five-place grid penalty for Bahrain

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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. Vettel was joined by Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen on the podium.

Kimi Raikkonen produced the fastest time across Friday's sessions in FP2 as the Ferrari excelled on supersoft tyres - the Finn stopping the clock at one minute, 29.817 seconds.

Hamilton claimed pole at the Melbourne opener by 0.6s, a lap Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo likened to Mercedes giving the rest of the paddock the middle finger and throwing a pie in everyone's face.

Hamilton finished fourth fastest and his five-place grid penalty means he will drop down to ninth.

"Overall I have been happier this weekend with how the auto has been responding and how the front end is responding".

Although Sebastian Vettel is already much happier with the front end balance of his SF71H, the German believes there is more to come from Ferrari in Bahrain.

Verstappen then ran out of sync with the other drivers - doing more laps at the start of the session to get a feel for the vehicle, which meant the track would have been in better condition for him when he did his fast lap later in the session than others.

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Sebastian Vettel, victor at Australia and last 12 months in Bahrain, was fifth quickest ahead of past season's pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas who was first sixth for Mercedes.

Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas (1:24.159) was third in Melbourne in the first exchanges of the new Formula One season.

The earlier session offered little insight into what might happen in Sunday's race given it took place in daylight, but Ricciardo proved strong late on to usurp Bottas and Raikkonen. Here the track improves all the time, with more grip every lap. We tried some things that didn't work which is why the gap was sometimes bigger. "We made some good progress through the weekend".

He headed Renault's Nico Hulkenberg, separated from his team-mate Carlos Sainz in 10th by Force India's Esteban Ocon.

Frenchman Pierre Gasly was ninth in his own Honda-powered Toro Rosso together with Fernando Alonso, a three-times victor at Bahrain, rounding out the best 10 in his own McLaren.

Toro Rosso rookie Pierre Gasly is next on the grid, promising an intriguing start to Sunday's race.

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson qualified 15th ahead of Williams' Sergey Sirotkin and teammate Charles Leclerc, who spun off in the final corner of his flying lap.

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