In a late-night development, four-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was handed an automatic five-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix after his Mercedes car needed to be fitted with a new gearbox.
A Mercedes spokesman confirmed Hamilton would have a new gearbox for final practice and qualifying, incurring an automatic five-place penalty.
Gearboxes must last for six successive races according to the rules.
The Briton had been off the pace in the day’s two free practice sessions, ending up the fourth fastest in the evening.
“(Hamilton) will take a five place penalty. We had an hydraulic leak in (the last) Melbourne race and were fortunate to finish the race,” a Mercedes spokesman said.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t repair the box within the six race cycle so need to take a fresh one, incurring the grid penalty.”
Hamilton’s setback in his bid to overhaul Vettel’s early-season lead in the title race – following his victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix – was confirmed by the International Motoring Federation (FIA), the sport’s ruling body.