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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2014 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX - SUNDAY - BAHRAIN GP
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Sunday - Bahrain GP
By Pablo Elizalde, Matt Beer, Edd Straw, Ben Anderson and Scott Mitchell
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
13:30 Hello and welcome to AUTOSPORT Live’s raceday coverage in Bahrain, the third round of the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship.

As ever, we’ll bring you our as-it-happens coverage of the race but to ramp up anticipation before that, we have plenty of news and insight from the paddock in the build up to the circuit’s first night race.

Bahrain Grand Prix

13:31 Before we delve into the fallout of yesterday’s action, not to mention plenty of meaty stuff surrounding the ongoing controversy regarding F1’s new era, here’s a look at what happened in yesterday’s qualifying session.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a Mercedes on pole. Actually, the front row is an all-Silver Arrows affair. Nico Rosberg will line up at the head of the field for the first time this season after leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo was best of the rest in third - but drops 10 places after his carry-over penalty for an unsafe release during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez excelled yesterday and will duly occupy the second row – but Sebastian Vettel failed to make Q3.

For a full report and look at the time, click here.

13:33 Here were the other big talking points after qualifying yesterday:

* Hamilton blamed his inability to beat Rosberg to pole on a balance issue with the car...

*...but Kimi Raikkonen was much happier with his Ferrari after qualifying sixth, four spots higher than team-mate Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard struggled

* Ricciardo insisted he would be aggressive in fighting through from 13th after showing so strongly in qualifying, while Red Bull revealed Vettel's struggles were down to an issue picked up in Q1

* Meanwhile, Adrian Sutil will start from the back of the grid after being hit with a penalty for impeding Romain Grosjean during qualifying

13:39 McLaren is inviting fans to send well-wishes to Jenson Button - who celebrates 250 grands prix starts this weekend.

You can use #Jenson250 on Twitter to get your messages shown on the team's screen at the track.

13:40 While you would hope that on a grand prix weekend the focus would be on the racing, that's not the case. Because all is not well in the world of Formula 1.

It has not gone unnoticed that F1’s new look has prompted a mixed reaction from fans. While the noise of the new V6 turbos has not been well received by some, the cause has not been helped by Mercedes’ large advantage at the front and the apparently-easy route to victory for Rosberg and Hamilton in Australia and Malaysia.

Unsurprisingly, some of the sport’s key figures are now drawing battle lines over what, if anything, it should do in response to criticism over the spectacle…

13:42 Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo kicked it off by revealing he was flying to Bahrain to discuss with FIA president Jean Todt how to make the sport, which he criticised as being little more than "taxi-cab racing", more "extreme".

As you'd expect, Mercedes was not best pleased with the prospect of regulations changing after the start of the season. Actually, Toto Wolff's comments were a bit stronger than that – he labelled the "whole discussion absurd".

Di Montezemolo then insisted that Ferrari's drive to improve the spectacle of the sport was entirely with the fans at heart - not to stop Mercedes walking away with both titles.

13:43 Then, just to add more fuel to the fire, Bernie Ecclestone got involved. He reckons the sport needs urgent changes, and claimed its current guise was "unacceptable" for fans.

Perhaps most shocking of all was Ecclestone’s suggestion that F1 had gone the wrong way by introducing a fuel-efficient formula. The new 1.6-litre turbos, while "fantastic", were not "F1 business".

"They should it in touring cars or something," he said. "Not in F1."

Ecclestone: 2014 F1 'unacceptable' for fans

Don your hard hats…

13:46 Despite Ecclestone’s negativity over F1's current state, he has suggested that the sport could welcome two new teams to the grid for next season.

Ecclestone said earlier today that Gene Haas’ bid for an American outfit had been accepted and that he had also discussed with FIA president Jean Todt about allowing a 13th team in.

F1 set for two new teams in 2015

13:50 A bit of light relief to ensure the controversy over the spectacle of the new era doesn't occupy all of AUTOSPORT cyberspace.

Humour isn't something F1 always offers in spades. But as March became April and pranksters rejoiced on the first day of the new month, a couple of F1 teams joined in the fun.

McLaren revealed details of its underground test track, while Red Bull revealed its twitter-function steering wheel. Not a bad effort – but both should probably stick to catching Mercedes.

Red Bull steering wheel

13:52 Just a small step down from F1, and this morning's GP2 sprint race was an entertaining affair - with Briton Jolyon Palmer clinching victory and taking an early points lead with it.

McLaren youngster Stoffel Vandoorne didn't have a proper chance to replicate his race-winning heroics on his GP2 debut yesterday. He had a poor start and then broke his front wing as he attempted to fight back through the field.

13:58 Looking at the battle at the back of the grid, and Caterham came out on top - with Kamui Kobayashi 'quickest' in 19th.

Kobayashi was only four-tenths of making Q2 after making good progress throughout the weekend. For the first time this season, he had some meaningful running on Friday and was pleased to have gone into qualifying after a straightforward weekend.

"The laptime was OK," said Kobayashi. "The most important thing is we had a smooth week, no trouble on Friday, Saturday everything was fine.

"So this is the first proper weekend so far. But what is most important is the race performance."

14:00 Bianchi was almost a quarter of a second slower than Kobayashi, but believes that the team's use of electrical energy was not optimum on his qualifying lap.

"It was a bit disappointing because we did a good job, the balance felt good and the lap was clean," said the Frenchman. "The problem was, after qualifying we saw the overlays with Max, and I was losing a bit on the straights.

"Without this, we would have been ahead of Kobayashi. It was not exit speed, it's just on the straight. We finished the lap with no energy left, but we didn't see a lot of gain in other places. Maybe we are wasting some energy in some places without any gain."

14:04 BEN ANDERSON: Fernando Alonso felt Ferrari missed an opportunity to capitalise on misfortune for Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying yesterday, after his engine lost power and restricted him to the lower reaches of the top 10.

The double world champion thinks tyre strategy will be unpredictable in the race, as the cool conditions of the evening may help preserve tyre life.

"I think it's going to be interesting to see tomorrow with the track evolution, because it has been all weekend highly dependent on temperature, especially with the medium, they work better and better when the track is cooler."

"So I think the medium can be a good surprise in way because it didn't work too well during the weekend but it can be much closer compared to the soft, so we'll see.

"The strategy is something that remains open as well for many teams, it depends on your pace it depends on how competitive you are. We need to gamble on strategy and maximise what we have."

14:09 Another controversial talking point pre-weekend was the news that Adrian Sutil had driven without a water bottle in Australia in a bid to save weight.

The Sauber driver, whose team is running overweight but is planning some substantial weight-saving tweaks to its car for the near future, will do the same this weekend.

He had accused lighter drivers of blocking a change to F1 regulations that would increase the minimum weight limit and make the weight of taller drivers less of a disadvantage.

"You feel it already before the race that you haven’t got the ultimate power," he said yesterday. "The cars are a bit slower so you don’t have to be in superb shape but still it’s like you go for a run for one-and-a-half hours and you don’t eat enough before, then you have a sugar hole where you are almost getting in an area where you don’t work well.

"This is the danger we are facing. The season is long and the longer we travel is all taking energy off you. The more substance you have, the longer you last."

14:15 Three-quarters of an hour to go until the race start, and let's talk about something fun - tyre management.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery admitted that the difference in performance between the soft and the medium compounds the supplier has brought to Bahrain has proven bigger than expected

"We saw big performance difference between the two compounds which was between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds," he said. "We anticipated 1.5s, not 2.5s. It [pitstop strategy] will all be based on degradation, the wear will last all the race.

"It will be about relative degradation level – and we saw huge differences between drivers as well. That isn’t always the case – so there are a few question marks there."

Despite that, a two-stop strategy should be the norm. But if that sizable 2.5s difference in laptime remains, expect some teams opting for something a bit quirkier.

Romain Grosjean14:18 What can we expect to see from Lotus today? Maldonado was unsure pre-weekend, and that carried into qualifying as he was knocked out in Q1 and team-mate Romain Grosjean was slowest of the Q2 runners.

"We're not here to fight for P16 and P17 so it's a bit disappointing to see ourselves where we are in qualifying at the moment," said Maldonado after qualifying.

"We just need to be focused and try to push even more on the development of the car to catch the people around us. At the moment it's fair to say our car is a bit on the slow side and quite difficult to drive.

"However we've made an important step forwards in terms of reliability."

Grosjean was equally disappointed about the E22's performance but somewhat optimistic about the race.

"We have to try things and try to understand why we are where we are and why we are not unlocking our potential," he said.

"I hope the race pace will be a little bit better than the qualifying pace and then we can put up a good fight in the race."

14:24 BEN ANDERSON: McLaren refugee Sergio Perez needs to kickstart his season into life after two disappointing races with Force India.

The Mexican has looked stronger than team-mate Nico Hulkenberg so far this weekend and will start fourth for this race after an excellent job in qualifying. But it could have been even better…

"I lacked on my last set of tyres. The outlap was really messy, a lot of traffic so I couldn't warm up my brakes and tyres and I had a lock-up into Turn 1. That really hurt us.

"I lacked a bit in sector one on my timed lap, so I think beating the [Bottas] Williams was reachable but the lap itself was pretty strong.

"[The plan is] get a clean start, hopefully get Bottas off the line and just manage our race and degradation and do whatever we have to do.

"It’s close between two stops and three stops so it’s a race where it will be really interesting to see how much deg is a factor and how I can manage it. I’m confident."

14:27 Here's how the speed trap figures looked in qualifying. The main speed trap is located at the end of the start/finish straight, 144 metres before Turn 1:

1 Perez, 328.8km/h
2 Hulkenberg, 327.9km/h
3 Button, 327.2km/h
4 Sutil, 326.7km/h
5 Mangussen, 326.6km/h
6 Kvyat, 326.1km/h
7 Hamilton, 326.1km/h
8 Massa, 325.8km/h
9 Rosberg, 325.3km/h
10 Bottas, 321.8km/h
11 Kobayashi, 321.1km/h
12 Vergne, 320.4km/h
13 Ricciardo, 320.3km/h
14 Maldonado, 318.7km/h
15 Raikkonen, 317.3km/h
16 Alonso, 316.9km/h
17 Chilton, 316.3km/h
18 Grosjean, 314.9km/h
19 Vettel, 314.7km/h
20 Ericsson, 313.9km/h
21 Gutierrez, 313.0km/h
22 Bianchi, 310.5km/h

14:32 EDD STRAW: "All things being equal, the two Mercedes should walk it at the front, but the battle for best of the rest could be very close. Bottas has the advantage in third on the grid, but fourth-placed Perez looked superb on long-run pace during practice and is a definite contender for Force India's first podium finish since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.

"Raikkonen starts fifth, although whether he can challenge for third could depend on how the Ferrari is on its tyres. Watch out also for the second Williams of Massa and also the Red Bulls of Vettel and Ricciardo, which start 10th and 13th. It will be interesting to see whether Red Bull can make an impression in that battle for third from lowly grid positions. Practice suggested it could be a tough ask.

"As for Button, he starts sixth, but the McLaren hasn't quite had the outright pace to be at the front of that pack."

14:33 BEN ANDERSON: "Sunset in the Desert Kingdom as the cars begin making their way to the grid. Less than half an hour to go until we're racing in Bahrain."

14:35 Back to qualifying reaction, and with Perez showing strongly let's hear from the man who'll join him on the second row of the grid - Williams' Valtteri Bottas.

The last time Bottas started a grand prix from third place, at last year's Canadian GP after a stunning performance in rain-hit qualifying, he didn't have a hope of staying there.

He dropped to sixth on the opening lap and finished 14th. Today, he knows he has a shot at his first podium finish.

"It's a good feeling to know that this qualifying position is true pace," said Bottas. "It's completely different to Canada last year. We knew then that nearly everyone behind us was quicker, but we can really race.

"It's a really good chance to get good points with both cars, we really need to make the most out of it.

"We have the pace to fight for the podium. The fact is that Mercedes is too quick, but we have a good chance to be best of the rest."

14:37 Back to that point EDD STRAW made about Jenson Button playing down McLaren's chances - Kevin Magnussen reckons the night race will play into the squad's hands.

"Having a night race means lower track temperatures and I think that will help us," he said. "And there are less high-speed corners compared to Malaysia so that should be better for us as well.

"How good we will be, it's hard to say. But it should be better than Malaysia."

14:38 BEN ANDERSON: Kimi Raikkonen will start ahead of Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso for the first time this season in this evening’s race.

The Finn is feeling a lot happier with his car after struggling in the first two grands prix of the year, but isn’t sure whether he can move forward from his row three starting berth.

"It’s hard to say. Yesterday in the long runs it felt very difficult and suddenly the feeling with the tyres was pretty nice so I think we made the right changes for the car.

"I expect that it should be pretty OK, but if it’s fast enough for fighting with those [at the front], obviously we have to get through the first corner and lap, so we'll only see.

"But I'm more confident overall with how things are going. Hopefully we get a good start, get through the first corners and go from there."

14:47 Less than 15 minutes to go until the race start and the tension is building nicely ahead of what should be a superb grand prix.

The national anthem rings out, and is greeted with applause.

14:47 EDD STRAW: "Jenson Button starts his 250th grand prix today. He's the first British driver to reach this number of world championship race starts and only the fifth in history. He joins Rubens Barrichello (322), Michael Schumacher (306), Riccardo Patrese (256) and Jarno Trulli (252) in the 250 club."

14:49 Those who fear team orders could come between a Rosberg-Hamilton fight for the win, Toto Wolff has done his best to reassure you that will not be the case.

"There is no interference," he insists. "They will be racing each other, that is why they are here. They know how to race each other, we have discussed it many times, so it will be no different."

14:52 Looking for a last-minute indicator for what we should expect?

The answers aren't set in stone (this is F1 after all) but maybe the Friday form guide from GARY ANDERSON and EDD STRAW will help you out.

As they observed in FP2, Force India's long-run pace looked the strongest behind the Mercedes. Can Perez and Hulkenberg fight for the podium?

14:53 BEN ANDERSON: Watch out for Nico Hulkenberg in today’s race. The German has starred in the opening two races of the season, but will be starting further back than usual in Bahrain after a mistake in Q2 yesterday.

"Of course your disappointed and a bit angry because it shouldn’t have happened,” he told me after the session. "But that’s racing – you’re pushing the limits and that’s what happens if you try that. It’s not ideal but it happens unfortunately sometimes.

"I’m starting 11th, it’s not the end of the world! It’s not like starting last, it’s still a good position to start from. I’ve got two new sets of softs, which is good to have, race pace yesterday looked strong, I feel very confident and comfortable in the car so I’m quite optimistic we can have a strong race."

14:54 EDD STRAW: "It's easy to talk down Button's 250-start achievement. Yes, there are more world championship races in a season than there used to be, so drivers today rack up starts at a very rapid rate. But even so, this is his 15th full season and very few drivers make it that far. He's won a world championship and 15 races along the way, which is more than most can dream of achieving."

14:57 A few more minutes to go, and we're really intrigued to see how this one unfolds. It's a 57-lap race, so the run into the first corner will not decide the outcome - but it could help shape what kind of grand prix we witness.

15:00 EDD STRAW: "Interesting to see Vettel gambling on the mediums from the start of the race. The medium is slower and the soft is the tyre of choice for the race, so he's going to get rid of it in the first stint."

15:00 A reminder of how the grid looks as the tyre warmers come off and the formation lap begins:

1. Nico Rosberg
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Valtteri Bottas
4. Sergio Perez
5. Kimi Raikkonen
6. Jenson Button
7. Felipe Massa
8. Kevin Magnussen
9. Fernando Alonso
10. Sebastian Vettel
11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Daniil Kvyat
13. Daniel Ricciardo
14. Jean-Eric Vergne
15. Esteban Gutierrez
16. Romain Grosjean
17. Pastor Maldonado
18. Kamui Kobayashi
19. Jules Bianchi
20. Marcus Ericsson
21. Max Chilton
22. Adrian Sutil

15:01 Perez had a minor scare there when his Force India didn't immediately start the parade lap but he's away now so will assume the correct position on the grid.

15:02 BEN ANDERSON: Felipe Massa was outpaced by Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying yesterday, after a sideways moment in Turn 7, but will still start seventh.

He expects a tight race for the minor positions behind the frontrunning Mercedes boys this evening.

"It’s a big competition after Mercedes. The difference in laptimes from Ricciardo to me was four tenths, so it’s very close to many cars. It’s a big fight. Mercedes will just get better. It’s very difficult to get to that level, but after Mercedes is a big fight and things will change track by track.

"The race will be very competitive between many cars I think. I think we can be very competitive. Our car has good fuel consumption and that’s very important at this track. I think we can have a strong result."

15:02 Safe to say the Sakhir circuit is a much finer sight when artificially illuminated than it is in the harsh light of the desert sun.

15:03 Rosberg leads the field round the final corner and lines his Mercedes up on the grid.

15:03 The rest of the field slots into place, and once all 22 line up correctly we will be ready for the lights!

15:04 Adrian Sutil comes into place at the back of the grid.

15:04 All 22 cars now ready, green flag at the back.

15:04 All lights on - and out!

15:04 Rosberg gets away well but Hamilton gets alongside into Turn 1 and leads!

15:05 Rosberg attacks Hamilton into Turn 4 and tries to run around the outside but has to cede the position.

15:05 Massa has shot into third ahead of Perez with Button up to fifth.

15:05 Contact in the midfield leaves Jean-Eric Vergne with a punctured rear tyre.

15:05 Hectic stuff further down the field!

15:06 Raikkonen complains over the radio that Magnussen "hit me again".

15:07 Hamilton holds a one-second lead over Rosberg, then, with Raikkonen and Hulkenberg fighting tooth-and-nail for seventh.

15:07 Order at the end of lap one:

1 Hamilton
2 Rosberg
3 Massa
4 Perez
5 Bottas
6 Button
7 Alonso
8 Hulkenberg
9 Raikkonen
10 Vettel
11 Magnussen
12 Ricciardo
13 Kvyat
14 Gutierrez
15 Maldonado
16 Bianchi
17 Ericsson
18 Kobayashi
19 Grosjean
20 Sutil
21 Chilton
22 Vergne

15:07 Vergne blames a "crazy Lotus guy. I don't know who it was. Absolutely mental."

15:08 Rosberg is not letting Hamilton get away at the front and the gap stays the same - exactly one second. Massa is less than a second back.

15:08 DRS enabled then, and Rosberg will need to edge away from Massa and get within attacking distance of his team-mate - and it looks like he has.

15:09 Vergne has rejoined at the back after his puncture repairs but is 1m03s behind nearest rival Chilton in 21st.

15:09 Perez has dropped back from Massa and has Bottas, Button, Alonso and Hulkenberg in close company. In fact, there's a massive train of cars within a second of one another.

15:09 Mercedes lets Hamilton know that Rosberg is only 0.9s behind so "he has DRS."

15:10 Rosberg is just 0.8s behind now, with Massa being left behind by the Mercs. Hulkenberg, in eighth, is the likeliest of the top group to launch an attack - he's half a second behind Alonso.

15:10 "White H5, position two," McLaren tells Magnussen, but adds the more ominous "Urgent" too.

15:10 Kvyat complains to Toro Rosso about front brake-locking. Toro Rosso reassures him that he's faster than Ricciardo in 12th place ahead.

15:11 Replays show just how hard the Mercs went at it into Turn 4 - good thing the kerb was removed on the outside!

15:11 Kvyat is still concerned though, saying "OK guys, this is ridiculous" about his front brake locking.

15:11 Hamilton has edged just over a second clear of Rosberg now, so he's clear of a DRS-assisted attack for now.

Hulkenberg has nailed Alonso for seventh.

15:12 Massa is slipping back into the clutches of Perez in the battle for third. Bottas, Button and Hulkenberg are somewhat spread out (just over a second between each of them).

15:12 "You are saving more fuel than your team-mate," Mercedes tells Rosberg, "but continue to save."

15:13 Interestingly that Mercedes message came at Rosberg's request, he called in for "information about fuel consumption compared to other cars."

15:13 Simple pass from Hulkenberg into Turn 1 on Alonso to take seventh. Powers alongside him and it was an easy enough outbraking move to make.

15:13 Alonso got on the radio to complain to Ferrari about a lack of power as Hulkenberg breezed past him.

15:14 Perez is hassling Massa hard for the final podium spot now. That battle is already 5s off the lead after five laps.

15:14 Hamilton is told to "look after that left front. Looks like we have a little more understeer than the other car."

15:15 Button has got to within a second of Bottas now, and the McLaren will be looking to make a move for fifth.

15:15 Ricciardo is hassling Magnussen hard for 11th place. Raikkonen and Vettel are both putting pressure on Alonso just ahead.

15:16 Rosberg is told he will now be on "the alternative strategy" and that it means a longer first stint. We're now on lap eight of 57.

15:16 Seven laps completed, and Hamilton's lead is 1.4s.

15:17 Sutil is the first driver to make a scheduled pitstop.

15:17 Alonso pulls a slight gap over Raikkonen and Vettel now in their fight for eighth.

15:17 BEN ANDERSON: "Disappointing for Rosberg to lose out to Hamilton at the start. Could this be the first instalment of their 'Prost versus Senna' style battle, whereby Rosberg attempts to use strategy and fuel saving to outwit his team-mate?"

15:17 Ricciardo is still all over the back of Magnussen for 11th, locking up a-plenty.

15:17 EDD STRAW: "Vettel will be pretty satisfied so far. While still down in 10th, he's holding his own on the medium rubber. Should mean he's on the quicker tyre later in the race when others are on the mediums."

15:18 Ricciardo dives down the inside of Magnussen into Turn 1 but runs wide onto the run-off.

15:19 Ricciardo then has to work very hard to fend off Kvyat for 12th into Turn 4 as the Toro Rosso gets a run down the inside.

15:19 Ricciardo jinked out from behind Magnussen very late on the run into Turn 1, got nicely sideways, caught it but had to go over the exit kerbs.

15:19 Grosjean has now shaken off the Marussias and Caterhams among which he was initially embroiled and has joined Gutierrez in pressuring Maldonado for 14th.

15:19 Massa and Perez are now 10s behind the two Mercs, which are separated by no more than 1.5s.

15:20 Button attacks Bottas for fifth into Turn 1 - they run side-by-side through Turn 2 and the Briton makes it stick! Great move.

15:20 Ricciardo is already straight back onto Magnussen's tail.

15:20 Bottas then immediately loses out to Hulkenberg as well, with the German up to sixth. Nightmare couple of corners for the Finn.

15:20 EDD STRAW: "Ricciardo has been pretty racy all season - gave Vettel a run for his money on the first lap again earlier. But overdid it trying to pass Magnussen there. Kvyat definitely backed out of that move on his Red Bull stablemate, so that mistake would have cost Ricciardo a place in normal circumstances."

15:21 Bianchi currently leads the tail-end battle in 17th but has Kobayashi right on him. Ericsson and Chilton are slipping away behind them.

15:21 Vergne is poised to be lapped by the leading Mercedes pair.

15:21 Rosberg takes a tenth and a half out of his team-mate and is just under 1.3s behind Hamilton now. Bottas has shot into the pits.

15:21 Kvyat makes his first pitstop.

15:21 Bianchi also into the pits.

15:22 "Jenson, we are in the window," says McLaren.

15:22 That pitstop from Bottas has freed up Hulkenberg to attack Button for fifth. The McLaren is just over 3s behind the battle for third, so Hulkenberg is definitely his priority right now.

15:22 Ricciardo is so close to Magnussen he's nearly nudging the McLaren.

15:23 Ricciardo tries down the outside at the end of the back straight. Magnussen defends but slides wide and Ricciardo is through.

15:23 Lotus tells Maldonado his "pace is good". That's probably a relative point.

15:23 Bottas and Kvyat are setting new benchmark sector times on their out-laps.

15:23 Both Ericsson and Chilton pit.

15:24 Bottas and Kvyat are now down in 16th and 17th behind Kobayashi after their early pitstops, but their pace is very rapid.

15:24 Change for third - Perez with a brilliant move on Massa. That started with an attack into Turn 4 and he makes it stick through Turns 5/6.

Massa attempts to fight back into the hairpin but locks up and has to give up for now.

15:24 Caterham keeps Ericsson ahead of Chilton in their simultaneous pitstops.

15:24 That's also put Massa just 1.5s clear of Button and Hulkenberg.

15:25 "OK Jenson, this is good," says McLaren. "Massa also starting to struggle with tyres and bringing Checo back with him."

15:25 Bottas sets the new fastest lap of the race, but Kvyat beats it moments later with a 1m40.160s.

15:25 Gutierrez pits.

15:26 Sutil looks like he's parking his Sauber.

15:26 Massa pits from fourth.

15:27 Sutil and Bianchi have made contact twice, the second barge leaving Sutil parked at Turn 1 and Bianchi limping back to the pits.

15:28 Vettel reports that his "DRS is not working anymore". Ricciardo has caught him very rapidly.

15:28 Button's edged clear from Hulkenberg - though that's relative because the gap's 0.8s.

The Briton's nibbling away at Perez's advantage though - is a podium on the cards?

15:28 Bianchi is now in the pits for repairs after that shunt with Sutil.

15:28 At the front, still the Mercs circulate 1.3s apart...will Rosberg force the issue with an undercut?

15:28 Bottas's early pitstop has paid off - he's jumped team-mate Massa.

15:28 Magnussen into the pits from 10th.

15:29 Vettel's up to sixth and lapping strongly on the medium tyre. No DRS, but is the race coming to him?

15:29 Bianchi's radio response to his clash with Sutil was incomprehensible but sounded grumpy.

15:29 That said, Vettel does have Ricciardo for very close company.

15:29 The stewards are investigating Sutil and Bianchi for that tangle.

15:30 Ricciardo gets on the phone to Red Bull to say that "we're losing time like this", and urges the team to make a decision.

The team responds by telling Vettel that his team-mate is quicker than him and "to let him by".

The world champion obliges - Ricciardo's up to sixth.

15:30 Hulkenberg pits from fifth.

15:30 Raikkonen, back in 13th after his stop, sets a new fastest lap with a 1m40.145s.

15:31 Kobayashi makes his first pitstop. Tail-end battle now his to lose after erstwhile rival Bianchi's clash with Sutil.

15:31 Rosberg is within a second of Hamilton - is he attacking before the pitstops?

15:31 Button, meanwhile, has dropped back from Perez. Vettel complains that he has "no more rear tyres".

Perez pits from third, Button stays out.

15:32 Vettel duly pits.

15:32 Hulkenberg hammers past Raikkonen and Kvyat within two corners on his out-lap and is now setting the best sectors of anyone all evening.

15:32 Button's third, and is a full pitstop behind the lead duo now.

15:33 Hulkenberg is ahead of team-mate Perez as the Mexican rejoins and he's flying, this could be the fastest lap so far.

15:33 Rosberg attacks! Attacks attacks attacks!

He dives by into Turn 1 but Hamilton cuts back to retake the lead immediately.

15:34 There you go, then - no team orders, and this race is already more exciting than Malaysia.

15:34 Sure enough, Hulkenberg does a 1m39.468s. He's up to eighth and catching Alonso very rapidly.

15:34 The Mercs came within a whisker of colliding as Hamilton cut back - that was a bit aggressive from the Briton, but it worked.

Rosberg had a bit of a moan on the radio afterwards.

15:35 Deja vu! They go at it again into Turn 1!

Rosberg throws it up the inside, they both lock up, Rosberg manages to nick it and Hamilton attacks again into Turn 4!

Rosberg hangs on but Hamilton goes again into Turn 5 and after a superb battle, retakes the lead. Sensational stuff.

15:35 Ricciardo pits, he'd moved up to third.

15:36 Button has also stopped.

15:36 Bianchi is given a drive-through penalty for causing the Sutil crash.

15:36 Hamilton stops - he's had enough of this.

15:37 Fastest lap now goes to Vettel on a 1m39.312s.

15:37 Both Force Indias have overtaken Alonso to move into fifth and sixth.

15:38 "Push hard Nico, push hard," urges his engineer. "Fuel is fine."

15:38 As expected, Hamilton is flying with fresh rubber. He'll have a nice buffer when Rosberg does stop.

15:38 Button is all over Raikkonen for eighth place after losing ground in the pit sequence.

15:39 Button hits the DRS and sweeps past Raikkonen into Turn 1. Now there's a four-second gap to Alonso.

15:39 Amazingly, we're running two-by-two back to eighth! Mercedes, Williams, Force India and Ferrari running in formation.

15:39 Vergne retires in the Toro Rosso pit.

15:39 Sutil had managed to get his Sauber going again after that shunt with Bianchi but after several laps of limping around, he pits to retire.

15:40 Bottas holds third ahead of Massa but has less than a second over his team-mate so that could change when the Brazilian gets to the DRS zone.

Rosberg pits, and goes onto the medium tyre. Hamilton is on the softs (and well clear in the lead).

15:40 Kobayashi fell behind Chilton thanks to staying out long before his first stop, but he's caught the Marussia again for 17th and 'backmarker lead'.

15:41 So, with everyone having stopped, here's the top 10:

1 Hamilton
2 Rosberg
3 Bottas
4 Massa
5 Hulkenberg
6 Perez
7 Alonso
8 Button
9 Raikkonen
10 Vettel

15:41 Now he's been passed by Button, Raikkonen is coming under threat from Vettel.

15:41 BEN ANDERSON: "Massa only 0.7s behind Bottas, who's on older tyres. More team orders coming up?"

15:42 "So Nico, this will be a long stint on prime tyres," Rosberg is told.

15:42 While Hamilton is told to look after his current tyres to minimise his time on primes later.

15:42 Bottas locks up slightly into Turn 1 and Massa is right on his tail. As if to answer Ben, they don't change places - yet.

15:43 Williams need to make a decision quickly though, because Hulkenberg is closing in quickly.

15:43 Ricciardo is told he's catching Raikkonen and Vettel at six tenths a lap, as the pair battle hard.

15:43 There's less than 2s covering Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg and Perez now. Great battle for third!

15:44 Kobayashi has now passed Chilton for 17th and is pulling clear.

15:44 Rosberg is flying - he was 0.5s quicker than Hamilton on that lap. The gap between them is 5.7s.

For now, Toto Wolff and co will much prefer that!

15:44 Massa lets Williams know that Bottas is "losing his rear tyres", and is told "understood, try to use this to get by him."

15:44 "You're currently quicker than Lewis," Rosberg is told.

15:45 "OK Pastor," says Lotus, "you're doing a good job but you're a little bit late on the tones." Not lifting in time, it seems.

15:45 Vettel slices inside Raikkonen to take ninth place.

15:45 Massa goes for third into Turn 1! Bottas just about holds on, though.

15:46 Kvyat pits from 12th place for his second stop.

15:46 Bottas lets Williams know that "the rears are starting to go, so be ready". Massa observed correctly.

15:46 Massa's now coming under attack from Hulkenberg...this is costing Williams.

15:46 Button is closing in on Alonso for seventh place. The gap is down to 1.6s.

15:47 Bottas requested this pitstop extremely politely: "I would like to box now, if possible."

15:47 Rosberg's dropped back from Hamilton now, 6.3s between them.

Bottas finally pits - and Massa has the Force Indias swarming all over him.

15:47 Magnussen comes in. He had been in a battle with Kvyat, who stopped a moment ago.

15:48 Button is now within DRS range in his chase of Alonso for seventh.

15:48 Ooh, very close! Hulkenberg attacks on the run into Turn 4, Massa squeezes him hard and Perez takes full advantage with a wheel-to-wheel battle (and pass) on the run to Turn 5.

15:48 Raikkonen is about to come under attack from another Red Bull as Ricciardo appears on his tail for 10th place.

15:49 Hulkenberg not impressed with Perez: "He just pushed me right off."

Second Bahrain GP in a row where Perez annoys a team-mate...

15:50 Button says his DRS is not working. That's frustrating for him as he's just 0.3s behind Alonso.

15:50 Bottas rejoined in 11th place after that shunt, in some clear air between the Raikkonen/Ricciardo battle and the Lotus pair.

15:51 Still this battle for third rages. Massa goes slightly defensive into Turn 1, and fends off Perez for another lap.

15:51 Ricciardo has a massive lock-up into Turn 1 and noses down the inside of Raikkonen, somehow avoiding hitting the Ferrari.

15:52 Hulkenberg is still cross. "Just concentrating on driving, mate," says his engineer.

15:52 Amazing! Perez sends Massa defensive into Turn 4 and the Mexican drives past on the run into Turn 5.

Hulkenberg makes the most of that to nick fourth, too, but almost hands it back with a lurid slide onto the back straight - but holds on!

15:52 That doesn't please Hulkenberg: "give me some feedback, don't leave me alone here!" he demands.

15:52 Alonso pits, releasing Button.

15:52 Massa pits, not a good lap for the Brazilian.

15:53 Grosjean comes into the pits. He got ahead of Maldonado and Gutierrez during the first stops.

15:53 Ricciardo is back on Raikkonen again at the end of the back straight.

15:53 Hamilton's boosted his lead to 7.5s now, with Perez almost 30s off the lead. Hulkenberg is still close behind.

Button's just under 4s behind that battle, with Vettel 2.7s back in sixth.

15:54 Bottas is a full eight seconds ahead of Massa after the Williams duo's pitstops.

15:55 Bottas is rapidly closing on the battle between Raikkonen and Ricciardo for what is now seventh.

15:55 Mercedes tells Rosberg that the gap in performance between the two tyre compounds is "closer than we expected". Bad news for his strategy...?

15:56 Gutierrez is told that Kobayashi is likely to be two stopping so he needs to pass the Caterham on track.

15:56 Bottas breezes past Ricciardo down the outside into Turn 1 then has to jink off the road to miss Raikkonen just ahead.

15:56 The Williams very nearly ploughed into the back of the Ferrari. "What is he doing??" Bottas asks over the radio.

15:57 Now it's Ricciardo who is all over Raikkonen's rear wing again.

15:57 We've eased past halfway now, and it's going to be fascinating to see how the strategy choices play out at the front.

Rosberg's been told the difference between the compounds is not as much as first thought. That means a late charge on the softs might not be as profitable as first though.

15:58 Massa is now bearing down on the Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas fight too.

15:58 Hulkenberg's edging ever closer to the back of his team-mate, and must be about to launch an attack.

They need to be careful though, because Button's nibbling away at the gap to the Force Indias - though Vettel is another 5s further back.

15:58 Ricciardo finally squeezes past Raikkonen for seventh.

15:58 Bottas has caught back up and trying down the outside into the downhill Turn 8.

15:58 Button's had a rather sluggish first sector - the middle sector's fine, so something must have happened.

15:59 Bottas makes it past Raikkonen on the back straight. Now he chases Ricciardo.

15:59 That looks like a timing error - Button's first sector is now absolutely fine!

15:59 Bottas instantly gets onto Ricciardo's tail. Raikkonen will soon have Massa right behind him.

16:00 Chilton tells Marussia that the right hand side of his cockpit is getting hot.

16:00 Massa flies past Raikkonen on the back straight.

16:00 Hulkenberg's dropped out of DRS range from Perez now. That battle's quietened down.

Rosberg is 8.5s behind Hamilton now.

16:01 Vettel, who is running a lonely sixth, is told to "hang in there, we need a few more laps."

16:01 Bottas grabs seventh from Ricciardo into Turn 1 as Raikkonen makes his second pitstop with 23 laps to go.

16:02 "OK Lewis, you're safe on fuel, so no more lift and coast," Mercedes tells Hamilton, who replies "I heard you, man, I'm looking after my tyres."

16:02 Perez and Vettel both pit. Here we go.

16:03 Massa now passes Ricciardo.

16:03 Button's got within 2.5s of Hulkenberg in the fight for third now.

16:04 Perez has rejoined behind Alonso.

16:04 But Perez pretty much immediately repasses the Ferrari.

16:04 Hulkenberg pits from third.

16:04 Button joins the Force India in the pitlane - this battle will rage until the finish.

16:04 This a low key race for Magnussen, who is told he's racing Maldonado (who seems to be on course for one stop less) for position. Eleventh position, that is.

16:04 Ericsson parks his Caterham at the trackside.

16:05 Hulkenberg's pitstop brings him out behind the Perez/Alonso battle.

16:05 Hamilton's lead is almost up to 10s now at the front.

16:05 Ericsson had reported that he was losing power and was ordered to immediately stop his Caterham.

16:05 Twenty laps remaining, and the Williams are running third and fourth again.

16:06 EDD STRAW: "Pace on the medium tyre is certainly better than expected. If you look at Rosberg compared to Hamilton, the laptime gap has generally been around the 2-3 tenths level for much of their stints. This will certainly tip the dial more towards a two-stopper for some in the field."

16:06 Vettel passes both Magnussen and Maldonado to get into 11th.

16:06 Personal best lap for Perez in fifth as he hunts down the Martini-liveried cars in front.

Alonso is sixth, but has an incredibly quick Hulkenberg closing fast.

16:07 Ricciardo goes around the outside of Raikkonen to take 12th place.

16:07 Massa tells Williams: "we need a better strategy".

16:07 Ricciardo wastes no time in passing Magnussen too.

16:07 Hulkenberg blasts past Alonso and duly takes sixth. Next on his radar is Perez, 3.6s up the road.

Alonso will now look in his mirrors and await an attack from Button, who is 2.5s behind.

16:08 New fastest lap of the race from Hulkenberg. 1m38.785s.

16:08 Massa is right up behind Bottas in the battle for third. Perez is edging ever closer though, as is Hulkenberg. This could be a fascinating finish.

16:08 It's looking like minor points for Red Bull. Vettel is 10.6s behind Button in ninth, and Ricciardo is just behind him in 10th.

16:08 Both Red Bulls swiftly dismissed Maldonado's two-stopping Lotus.

16:09 Button's closing rapidly on Alonso for seventh, too. A lot happening! Who said this new era of F1 was dull?

16:09 Massa...pits. That's a third stop, with 18 laps remaining. He's not keen on a two stopper.

16:10 BEN ANDERSON: "Williams drivers are locked into a three-stop strategy, but Force India look the smart bet for a three-four result in this race on two stops."

16:10 "How are we looking on fuel?" Button asks. "Looking good, JB," he is told.

16:11 Magnussen makes his third and final stop.

16:11 Raikkonen sweeps past Maldonado, who has still only made one pit visit.

16:11 EDD STRAW: "Hamilton and Rosberg did exactly the same laptime to the thousandth of a second on lap 39."

16:11 Perez moves within a second of Bottas now. Surely the Finn has to stop soon?

Hulkenberg is 2.7s back. Button is harrying Alonso for sixth.

16:11 "I need to stop soon, there are no more rear tyres," Maldonado tells Lotus.

16:12 Both Maldonado and Kvyat pit for the last time.

16:12 BEN ANDERSON: "This race will all depend on whether Rosberg can overhaul Hamilton on the supposedly quicker soft tyre in the closing stages. It's going to be tense..."

16:12 "Brake later into Turn 11 for an earlier apex and better exit," Mercedes tells Rosberg.

16:12 Gutierrez and Maldonado collide at Turn 2, lots of damage to the Sauber.

16:12 Bottas pits.

16:13 Gutierrez is getting himself out of his wrecked car.

16:13 Hamilton pits from the lead!

16:13 Maldonado hit the Sauber at Turn 1 as he rejoined from his pitstop, sending Gutierrez into a roll.

16:13 Rosberg is in as well.

16:14 The safety car has been deployed. That was inevitable.

16:14 Does appear that Gutierrez was minding his own business and turning into the corner when Maldonado clipped his right rear, sending him into a double roll through the air.

The Mexican landed the right way up.

16:15 Maldonado pits again, he may well have needed a new wing after that clash. Surely one for an investigation too...

16:15 Right, this sets us up for a potentially awesome finish.

Hamilton's advantage has been eroded by this. It's now a fight to the flag, with Rosberg on the soft tyre and the leader on the medium.

Game on!

16:15 Magnussen parks his McLaren next to the track.

16:15 Gutierrez's description of the shunt on the radio: "Whoa! What was that??"

16:16 Lots of smoke/steam from Magnussen's parked McLaren as marshals wheel it behind the barriers.

16:17 This is the top 10 under the safety car:

1 Hamilton
2 Rosberg
3 Perez
4 Hulkenberg
5 Button
6 Vettel
7 Ricciardo
8 Massa
9 Bottas
10 Alonso

16:17 BEN ANDERSON: "That incident between Maldonado and Gutierrez could totally swing the race. Advantage Rosberg when we go racing again."

16:19 "I've got a lot of push on the apex of corners," says Hamilton in a slightly American style, "but I don't want to go back on my brake bias."

16:19 Rosberg is doing fine for fuel, he asks if he should burn some off during the safety car to make the Mercedes lighter.

16:20 BEN ANDERSON: "The longer this safety car period lasts, the better things will look for those on soft tyres for the final stint. Look out for the Red Bulls coming through as Rosberg takes the fight to Hamilton."

16:20 EDD STRAW: "In the top 10, Rosberg, Vettel and Ricciardo are on the softs. Everyone else is on the mediums."

16:22 Magnussen's retirement was due to a gearbox failure.

16:22 Looks like the safety car could be in this lap.

16:23 The stewards will be investigating the Maldonado/Gutierrez incident.

16:23 BEN ANDERSON: "This safety car is not great news for the Williams drivers, who gambled on an aggressive three-stop strategy but are now stuck in the lower reaches of the top 10 and on the same tyres as those around them."

16:24 Mercedes top brass hit the radio: "Lewis, it's Paddy," says tech chief Lowe. "There are 10 laps left, can we make sure we bring both cars home."

16:24 Lowe repeats that warning to Rosberg too.

16:25 Safety car in this lap!

16:26 We are racing again.

16:26 Great restart from both Mercs and they flying into Turn 1 with Hamilton on the defensive.

Behind Hulkenberg attacks Perez for third!

16:26 Hamilton and Rosberg run wheel-to-wheel through Turn 4! Hamilton holds on. Great stuff!

16:27 Perez just held off Hulkenberg for third and Button is now defending from Vettel.

16:27 Button is under pressure from the two Red Bulls for fifth.

16:27 Vettel makes it past the McLaren at the end of the back straight.

16:27 Ricciardo goes around the outside of Button to take sixth.

16:27 Hamilton blitzes the final sector to eke a few tenths out.

16:28 Maldonado has to take a 10-second stop-go penalty for rolling Gutierrez. He comes in immediately.

16:28 Hamilton - fastest lap of the race despite that battle! It's everything you've got time...

...but "I've got no power," he says over the radio!

16:28 Massa now overtakes Button, and Bottas follows him through for eighth.

16:28 Despite that, he's pulled another couple of tenths clear on the first sector of this lap. Eight and a half remaining.

16:29 "We're looking into it, all looks OK on the data," Mercedes tells Hamilton.

16:29 Vettel is harrying Hulkenberg for fourth as the Force India drops back from his team-mate in third.

16:29 Alonso is the latest man attacking Button, but he can't quite get the move done.

16:29 Hamilton, another fastest lap - but Rosberg is still within DRS range.

It's a 1m37.306s for Hamilton.

16:30 This is a proper example of how good that Mercedes is - they are 8.7s ahead of Perez in third after two flying laps!

16:30 Raikkonen has to jink to miss Alonso as the Spaniard locks up behind Button, and Kvyat is right behind the Ferraris.

16:30 DRS available now...and Rosberg is 0.8s behind.

16:31 Rosberg sets a new fastest lap! Nothing left on the table here as the 1m37.020s from the German brings him to 0.4s behind his team-mate.

16:31 Ricciardo passes Vettel into Turn 1! Great intra-team battles here.

Vettel fights back into Turn 4 but Ricciardo defends the position.

16:32 Can Ricciardo nail Hulkenberg now...and possibly reel in Perez (1.2s ahead)?

16:32 "Energy store is low so only use the overtake button when you really need it," Force India tells Hulkenberg.

16:32 Rosberg is 0.5s behind Hamilton, he's not giving up here.

16:33 Vettel complains that he's "really, really slow down the straights."

16:33 Alonso is past Button's McLaren for ninth now.

16:33 Ricciardo is right up underneath the rear wing of the Force India now, but with six laps remaining needs to make the move soon as Perez is edging clear in third.

16:33 Grosjean is hanging on behind Button, Raikkonen and Kvyat in the battle for the final point.

16:34 Vettel almost gets alongside Ricciardo exiting the hairpin and as they run onto the back straight, he attacks again - but the Aussie holds on.

16:35 Rosberg is ultra close and dives up the inside into Turn 1!

Hamilton fight backs and just holds on. They are side-by-side into Turn 4 now. Through they go and Rosberg doesn't get out of the throttle even though he's off the track - and somehow, Hamilton stays ahead!

Amazing.

16:35 Alonso sets his best lap of the race so far and is catching the train of Force Indias and Williams.

16:35 Raikkonen overtakes Button for 10th. McLaren now outside the points.

16:35 Rosberg shows his nose into Turn 11 as well, but that's just a bit of sparring.

Turn 1, he'll go again.

16:36 "Use overtake all you need it," Hamilton is told.

16:36 Rosberg lunges into Turn 1, but it's too late on the brakes and Hamilton just breezes back by. What racing.

16:36 Perez is clear in third, but Hulkenberg still has the Red Bulls right behind.

16:37 "The Red Bulls behind are fighting with each other. As you get further on, your mediums will be better than theirs, so just keep it tidy and use your straightline speed," is the message to Hulkenberg.

16:37 Ricciardo's making a move on Hulkenberg for fourth - just a tenth between them!

16:38 Hamilton's doing the business brilliantly in the final sector, putting a few tenths between himself and Rosberg.

No attack into Turn 1 this time.

Behind, Ricciardo set Hulkenberg up through Turn 11 and outdrags him on the exit. He takes fourth.

16:38 Alonso is now right behind the Williams pair in ninth place.

16:38 "Good job mate," Red Bull says to Ricciardo. "Now let's get after Perez."

16:38 Hamilton gets clearance to "use 'overtake' where you need it".

16:38 Ricciardo has 2.5s to make up if he's to take a sensational podium. That's a tall order, mind.

16:39 Hamilton's almost out of DRS range...Rosberg needs to react now.

16:39 Hamilton moves 1.1s clear - could that be it?

16:40 Hulkenberg has Vettel, Massa, Bottas and Alonso within 2.7s of his tail, and Raikkonen edging closer too.

16:40 "Checo, Ricciardo is half a second faster and at that rate he will not close in on us," Force India tells Perez.

16:41 Grosjean is complaining that Kvyat is going off the track to keep him behind in their battle for 12th.

16:41 Ricciardo gets the gap to Perez down to 1.7s - this is a battle for a first podium finish.

16:41 Button's McLaren slows, looks like he's having to retire from 11th.

16:41 Rosberg's back to 0.7s behind Hamilton. This isn't over!

16:41 Massa attacks Vettel for sixth into Turn 1.

16:41 Vettel gives Massa minimal room, the Williams squeezes ahead into Turn 4 but then loses the place again.

16:42 Button is parking in the McLaren pit.

16:42 Massa has Bottas and both Ferraris on the back of him now after that block from Vettel cost him momentum.

16:42 Final lap: Hamilton leads by about a second.

Ricciardo's just 1.3s behind Perez now with a lap to go.

16:43 Massa goes slightly wide and Bottas attacks him.

16:43 Ricciardo is right on the tail of Perez as they approach the back straight!

16:44 LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX!

16:44 Amazing, amazing defensive drive by Hamilton to fend off Rosberg.

And Perez holds off Ricciardo for third!

16:44 Hulkenberg makes it home fifth ahead of Vettel, Massa, Bottas, Alonso and Raikkonen - just two seconds covering the last four there.

16:45 Kvyat stays ahead of Grosjean for 11th.

16:45 Chilton ends up on top in the next pack, taking 13th ahead of final finishers Maldonado, Kobayashi and Bianchi.

16:45 Time to catch your breath now.

16:46 Hamilton says "we didn't have the pace on our side of the garage, but we held on to it."

16:46 Fireworks going off - no, real fireworks. There were plenty on-track, too - what a race.

16:46 "Fantastic job Nico, and best of all, great racing. Well done," is Mercedes' message to Rosberg.

16:47 Hamilton and Rosberg are back, and out of their cars. They looked quite chilled - how?!

16:48 Hamilton and Rosberg play fight out of the car - brilliant from the two.

Perez throws himself at the Force India mechanics and they are celebrating like they've won the race.

16:49 BEN ANDERSON: "Brilliant third race of the season here in Bahrain. Result in doubt until the closing stages and fantastic battling through the field."

16:50 Applause for the top three as they make their way through to grab a pre-podium towel and maybe a swig of water.

Rosberg grabs Hamilton from behind, they share a laugh - "that was so close," laughs the Briton.

They both look thoroughly, thoroughly pleased.

16:50 "No one can tell me that this sport is boring!!" was Rosberg's delighted radio call to Mercedes on the slowing-down lap.

16:51 Roars from the Force India guys as Perez makes his way onto the podium - his first rostrum with the team.

Out come Rosberg and Hamilton - delight from the crowd.

16:51 Ricciardo sounds a bit knackered on the radio and slightly peeved not to have separated Perez from the podium. He was 0.4s short.

16:52 The British national anthem rings out now...how easily (and deservedly) it could have been the German equivalent.

16:52 Now it's time for the German example, in respect to Mercedes.

16:53 Sixth-placed Vettel is puzzled by how slow his Red Bull was on the straights. "You got everything out of it, Seb," the team tells him.

16:54 Trophy time now. Beautiful silverware for the top three - not a frown among them.

16:56 "Hey everybody, what a race, huh?" says AC/DC's Brian Johnson.

He'll be conducting the podium interviews.

16:57 "It was exciting," says Hamilton. "Nico drove fantastically well, very fair, and it was very hard to keep him behind. I was on the knife edge the whole time."

16:58 "I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis," Rosberg jokes (with more than a hint of seriousness though). "It's the most exciting race I've ever done in my career.

"Today was a day for the sport, we put on a massive show. I'll be back the next race to take the win."

16:59 Perez says the safety car was pivotal as Johnson rounds up the podium interviews. Entertaining way to cap a very, very entertaining race.

17:04 Rave reviews for that race on Twitter. Here's sometime Force India Friday driver-turned-Ferrari WEC factory driver James Calado:

@JamesCalado: "Best formula 1 race in 10 years I reckon!! Awesome. Congratulations @MercedesAMGF1 and @LewisHamilton"

17:05 Gil de Ferran, though, is not a fan of radio complaining:

"Great race, apart from the whining on the radio! Get on with it!"

17:07 That comment from de Ferran could be in response to a number of things - possibly even a message from Hamilton on the slowing down lap, in which we think he said something about "not having the speed this side of the garage".

That said, the ebullience on the podium showed he was well and truly reveling in the rivalry with Rosberg.

17:11 That was one in the eye for critics of the new-look F1, and if you're still not satisfied by the noise of the V6 turbos then guess what? F1 2014 is going to be cranked up.

AUTOSPORT has learned that teams and the sport's bosses have agreed to look into ways to make the current cars louder, following complaints about the noise.

Full story here:

Formula 1 cars to be made louder

17:11 That's not the only story to have broken since the race began - Formula 1's plans for a cost cap in 2015 have been abandoned, FIA president Jean Todt has revealed.

17:15 More reaction to a terrific race - from a man who knows a thing or two about being involved in mega scraps, Ducati MotoGP ace Cal Crutchlow:

"@LewisHamilton what a drive ! Great fight and good to see …"

17:17 If nothing else, that race should prove that judging a new era after two races is...premature, to say the least.

17:21 Want to relive the Bahrain Grand Prix? BEN ANDERSON's race report is available for your perusing:

Hamilton wins Bahrain thriller

17:22 Word from EDD STRAW, who made his way to the podium madness:

"Vijay Mallya is clearly reveling in his team's return to the podium. Being interviewed next to the trophy right now."

17:23 More from STRAW, who has spied some Red Bull chatter:

"Ricciardo just had a quiet word with Kvyat in the TV pen after the race. Looked from afar like he thanked him for backing out of that passing move."

If you're wondering, that's why Ricciardo was recovering after running wide at Turn 1 and Kvyat failed to take advantage and demote him further.

17:29 Here are the drivers' standings after three races, and Hamilton's now just 11 points behind Rosberg.

And look who is third - Nico Hulkenberg. He's quite good isn't he?

1. Nico Rosberg 61
2. Lewis Hamilton 50
3. Nico Hulkenberg 28
4. Fernando Alonso 26
5. Jenson Button 23
6. Sebastian Vettel 23
7. Kevin Magnussen 20
8. Valtteri Bottas 18
9. Sergio Perez 16
10. Daniel Ricciardo 12
11. Felipe Massa 12
12. Kimi Raikkonen 7
13. Jean-Eric Vergne 4
14. Daniil Kvyat 3

17:32 Hamilton rates that effort to keep Rosberg at bay as "one of my most difficult races", saying that the "last race like that was Indy 2007".

That was in his rookie season, when he fought off then-McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso to take his second win in a week.

"Nico drove a fantastic race and when you are with your team-mate it is hard to make the right decision - where to put car, where to brake - but it was great."

17:33 Onto the constructors' standings, and the good news continues for Force India:

1. Mercedes 111
2. Force India-Mercedes 44
3. McLaren-Mercedes 43
4. Red Bull-Renault 35
5. Ferrari 33
6. Williams-Mercedes 30
7. Toro Rosso-Renault 7

17:38 Some more from Nico on that battle for the lead:

"I was quicker today which I was pleased about, I tried to overtake at end of first stint but couldn't make it stick. I had a shot again at the end with the option, it was a good lap again but unfortunately I couldn't make it happen, he did a great job defending.

"It was a massive fight out there, that is what I am here for. It is a good day for the sport because of recent criticisms. It will all go quiet tomorrow, and it is a good that we made it happen – but of course I am very unhappy with second."

17:40 Rosberg's reiterating time and again that "you can't call the sport boring". A reminder of what he's talking about:

Luca di Montezemolo labels 2014 F1 'taxi-cab racing'

Bernie Ecclestone says new-look F1 'unacceptable' for fans

17:41 EDD STRAW: Mercedes team now congregating on the pit lane to celebrate another one-two. After waiting almost 60 years from 1955 between one-twos, the marque gets two in seven days!

17:45 Having become only the second driver to finish on the podium in a Force India, Sergio Perez is unsurprisingly stoked with his evening's work.

"Nico [Hulkenberg] had newer tyres than I did, but the stops made a massive difference," he said. "I had to jump him back and overtake a Williams. It was a really enjoyable race, just like karting days.

"When I got to the finish line it was a great feeling. To be able to qualify fourth and straight away be able to fight for the podium was a great feeling and an amazing podium."

17:48 Amid talk of Mercedes engine domination, it's worth remembering the top 10 (and only) finishers in the 1982 race at Long Beach were powered by Ford power units.

17:50 Total, undeniable, flat-out, unadulterated praise for F1 2014 from Mark Webber on Twitter:

"Was a good old GP that..."

17:53 Sergio Perez admits today's podium feels very special following his struggles at McLaren last year:

Perez podium 'special' after tough 2013

17:55 "Wow, that was such a good grand prix. I really wish there was a service for me to access all that amazing information and see just how competitive this season is shaping up to be."

We hear you, readers. That's why our statistical partner FORIX is one of an AUTOSPORT subscription's finest additions.

You can check out all the data from the Bahrain Grand Prix, including driver quotes, lapcharts and much more information, right here.

17:56 Here's a superb shot of Esteban Gutierrez's Maldonado-induced Superman impression.

The Mexican, we hear, has been taken for medical checks. Hopefully, as he made his way out of the Sauber unassisted, he'll be given the all-clear.

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Bahrain Grand Prix

18:01 Pastor Maldonado has received three penalty points and a five-place grid penalty for tipping Gutierrez into that dramatic roll.

18:06 Jules Bianchi has been awarded two penalty points for his clash with Adrian Sutil.

The Marussia driver is the first man to reach four penalty points this year.

18:06 More mutual respect between the Merc boys: Hamilton says Rosberg did a better job in the Bahrain Grand Prix, despite the Briton claiming his second consecutive Formula 1 victory.

"Winning the race is the greatest thing, you are happy, but deep down inside I didn't have the pace today."

Hamilton: Rosberg did a better job

18:13 Daniel Ricciardo finally gets some points on the board. The Aussie drove a superb race to get the better of Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, and was chuffed with the reward:

"It was an awesome race; it was exciting. I think the first stint was a bit follow-the-leader, but from the second stint onwards, the race really started to turn up the heat and there were more battles going on in front and behind – it was good to be a part of them.

"It was good fun to race Sebastian, it was hard but fair and we left each other room. That’s what we want from each other and we discussed it beforehand, we're racers and that’s what we enjoy doing."

18:15 Vettel, though, was not exactly pleased to finish sixth. The German was reporting a straightline speed problem all race long.

"Daniel proved that there was a little bit more to get from the car today, I couldn't really get to that bit, so I’m not so happy with my day," he said.

"For some reason we seemed to be really slow on the straights, and not just against the Mercedes."

18:23 Some win statistics after that race:

* Win number 102 for a Mercedes-engined car
* Lewis Hamilton's 24th win, moves him level with Juan Manuel Fangio in 10th on the all-time list
* 16 wins for Mercedes as a manufacturer, which moves it joint 11th with Cooper

18:33 Here's the story of Pastor Maldonado losing five places on the grid for the Chinese Grand Prix following his accident with Gutierrez this evening.

Maldonado penalised for Gutierrez roll

18:45 Ah, this is good news, courtesy of Sauber on Twitter.

"Good news! @EstebanGtz has completed all medical checks and everything is fine. He has been released from the hospital."

18:50 Jenson Button believes McLaren took a step forward in terms of pace this weekend:

"Moreover, our degradation was positive and I think we did a very good job understanding our tyres.

"Only one team were demonstrably quicker than us today – Mercedes – but sadly they were a lot quicker than us.

"Having said that, our long-run pace was very good, especially over the last few laps, so I reckon we could have raced very hard to the finish on the Primes. But unfortunately I didn’t get that opportunity."

18:51 Pastor Maldonado on his incident with Gutierrez:

"We will need to have a look again at what happened as Esteban seemed to be off his line coming into turn one - maybe he missed his braking point, I don't know – and by then I was in the corner with nowhere to go."

19:00 Williams has put its disappointing result down to excessive tyre degredtation - in a brilliant show of synchronised complaining.

Valtteri Bottas started the race third and both he and team-mate Felipe Massa were challenging for the final podium spot throughout the race, but dropped to seventh and eighth at the flag after tyre wear forced a third pitstop.

"The start was fantastic," said Massa, who shot to third at the first corner having started seventh. "We were in a good position and fighting but sadly the tyre degradation was worse than we expected."

"After a poor start our race strategy was compromised," Bottas explained. "I had too much wheelspin and that lost me a few positions which is frustrating.

"We had issues with the tyres that were worse than expected."

19:04 Happy Daniel Ricciardo on Twitter:

"That was a pimpin good time"

19:14 Kevin Magnussen has described his Bahrain Grand Prix as "disappointing", and that's not just because it was ended by a suspected clutch failure.

The young Dane was hopeful of a strong race but had an anonymous run on the fringes of the top 10 before retiring.

"I hope there will be something to take out of this weekend," he said. "We are learning from every time we are on track with the car.

"But I think today we were expecting the cooler conditions to help us, but actually we were even weaker than we were in Malaysia for some reason."

19:17 Plenty for Nico Hulkenberg to be happy about, despite seeing team-mate Sergio Perez claim a podium for Force India before he has managed one...at all.

The German, as highly-rated as ever, lies third in the points after the opening three races, and had some kind words to say about Perez's achievement.

"It’s a great day for the team and I’m very happy for the guys" he said. "The battle with Checo was very clean and fair, and when you’re fighting for the podium you give everything but always stay within the lines. It was good fun.

"I held back Ricciardo for as long as I could and I managed to stay ahead of Vettel. It’s a great achievement for the team and we've shown once again that we are competitive so hopefully we can keep up the momentum in China."

19:19 Esteban Gutierrez reports to be fine after his accident, and insists he did nothing wrong despite Maldonado's claims.

"First of all, the most important is that I am ok. They did all the checks at the hospital and everything is fine.

"Concerning the accident, I was completely surprised that Pastor (Maldonado), who came out of the pits, ran into me. I was clearly in front of him. I turned into the corner and I was suddenly hit and I rolled over. There was nothing much I could do."

19:39 Kimi Raikkonen admits the Mercedes-powered cars are in a different class after a tough race to 10th place in the Ferrari.

Raikkonen: rivals in different class

19:57 Jenson Button reckons McLaren was only outpaced by Mercedes this evening - and that the team can take plenty of heart despite a double retirement.

We will leave it there for AUTOSPORT Live's coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Keep an eye on AUTOSPORT.com for full reaction to and analysis of a thrilling third round of the 2014 Formula 1 season.

This new-look F1 isn't too bad really, is it? Until next time, goodnight.

Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg Bahrain Grand Prix

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Race length: 57 laps
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Clear skies High Temp: 24°C / 75°F
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Friday 04 Apr Start GMT
 Friday - Practice 10:30
Saturday 05 Apr
 Saturday - Qualifying 11:00
Sunday 06 Apr
 Sunday - Bahrain GP 13:30