Max Verstappen posts fastest time in final practice in Bahrain

Hamilton was quickest in Q1, Q2 and then seemingly in the shoot-out for pole, only for the Finn to nick it in the closing seconds with his best lap of one minute and 28.769 seconds.

43 - Hamilton and Vettel lead the World Championship with the same points (43); the last time two drivers were tied at the top was after the Spanish GP in 2012 (Vettel and Alonso).

He left Williams to join Mercedes this season as an emergency replacement for German driver Nico Rosberg - Keke Rosberg's son - who quit F1 just days after winning the title previous year.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, center, of the Netherlands walks in the team box during the second practice session for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Frid.

A pair of multiple world champions that are now level on points, Mercedes and Ferrari have already begun their yearly battle for this year's championship, and it's only the third race of the season.

In fact, Bottas says that he is happy with his progress so far, even if he initially struggled to cope with the anger of spinning behind the safety vehicle in China.

Vettel has been just as generous as Hamilton in heaping praise on his rival and the pair have so far served up one win each amid much mutual back-slapping and respect.

Outlining his desire that "nothing mechanical comes between our sheer battle in ability... an out and out fight through stubbornness, through mental stability, through composure... just outdriving the person on-track", nothing if not directly champions the perception that Rosberg inherited last year's crown on account of Hamilton's over embellished misfortune.

The third grand prix of 2017 takes place in Bahrain this Sunday.

4 - The last four pole positions in Bahrain have been for Mercedes.

"Big congratulations to Valtteri", said Hamilton. Bottas thought hard but words failed him.

Although not as hot as Friday, drivers still had to deal with afternoon track temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit) during P3.

Q2 only saw four cars eliminated at the flag, with Fernando Alonso having made it into the second part of qualifying but not running due to a power unit problem. He will start from 15th and needs a new engine for the race. Jenson Button, his replacement for Monte Carlo, is unlikely to be chomping at the bit to get back in the hapless McLaren.

  • Julie Sanders