Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty at the Bahrain GP due to a gearbox change.
F1’s sporting regulations state that a gearbox must be used for six consecutive races and Hamilton’s unscheduled change of unit has automatically triggered a penalty.
The setback means Hamilton, who struggled in Friday practice for the desert race, will start Sunday’s race no higher than sixth even if he were to qualify on pole position.
Qualifying takes place at 4pm with coverage from 3pm on Sky Sports F1.
Mercedes confirmed that Hamilton had a hydraulic leak during the season-opening Australian GP which he was “fortunate to finish the race” with, and the team couldn’t repair the gearbox for a six-race cycle.
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas has also changed his gearbox this weekend, but as he already had a gearbox change penalty in Australia following his qualifying crash, he is allowed a free change for this weekend’s race.
Speaking on Friday night before his penalty was confirmed by Mercedes, Hamilton had predicted a tough fight against Red Bull and Ferrari.
“I think what it’s shown is that it’s incredibly close between the three teams, really close,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to be a tough weekend.”
In the wake of his five-place demotion, that challenge has become tougher still for the reigning world champion.
Can Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bounce back at the Bahrain GP? Watch live on Sky Sports F1 from April 6-8. Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.