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Rosberg on pole in Russia as Hamilton suffers engine failure

Nico Rosberg (centre) celebrates his pole in Russia. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton's troubled defence to his Formula One title took another twist on Saturday after an engine failure prevented him from battling for pole position for Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, already under investigation from the stewards for failing to negotiate a block placed in the run-off area at turn two, is set to start only 10th.

And to make matters worse for the triple world champion, Nico Rosberg, whom he trails by 36 points in the race for the title, claimed pole to leave him as the overwhelming favourite to seal his fourth victory from as many grands prix this season.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel qualified second, but his five-placed grid penalty promotes the Williams of Valtteri Bottas on to the front row with Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) third.

Lewis Hamilton on top in Russia GP final practice

Lewis Hamilton on track in Sochi. Credit: PA

World champion Lewis Hamilton edged out his in-form title rival Nico Rosberg in final practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

The Briton posted a best lap of one minute and 36.403 seconds - the fastest ever seen at the Sochi Autodrom - in the final moments of the session ahead of qualifying later on Saturday.

Rosberg, 36 points clear of Hamilton heading into the fourth round of the championship, was just 0.068 seconds slower than his Mercedes team-mate.

Sebastian Vettel, who will serve a five-place grid penalty after changing his gearbox, was next up for Ferrari, albeit more than half-a-second adrift of Hamilton's best lap.

Kimi Raikkonen placed fourth with the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas fifth and sixth respectively.

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Rosberg celebrates China win with a Burger King

Rosberg won the Chinese Grand Prix, his third win in a row. Credit: PA

Nico Rosberg celebrated winning the China Grand Prix and moving 36 points clear of Lewis Hamilton with a Burger King as Red Bull team principal Christian Horner predicted Formula One's championship leader would soon have cause to celebrate a new Mercedes contract, too.

Rosberg's brilliant start to the season reached new heights on Sunday after he extended his unbeaten streak to three races in 2016, and six in as many grands prix stretching back to last year.

The German posted a video to his social media accounts in which he toasted his third victory at the fast-food restaurant ahead of his flight to Berlin for Monday night's Laureus Sports Awards where he will be joined by Hamilton and Mercedes bosses' Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

Rosberg is out of contract at the end of the year, but Horner does not envisage the 30-year-old leaving the sport's all-conquering team.

"I think Nico is doing a great job and I can't see him at any other team than Mercedes next year," Horner told Press Association Sport.

Formula One drivers split restaurant bill 18 ways

Formula One drivers may be among the best paid sportsmen in the world, but that did not stop them from splitting the bill 18 ways following their dinner in Shanghai on Wednesday night.

Lewis Hamilton, who last year signed a £100million three-year contract with Mercedes, said he picked the restaurant - an Italian called The Kitchen - and laid down the deposit for a meal which all but four of the grid attended.

Nico Rosberg tweeted the above picture of the dinner. Credit: ‏@nico_rosberg

But when it came to who picked up the bill, he claimed his offer to pay was shot down by his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

"It was a little bit silly really, ridiculous because someone said, 'Let's share the bill', so 18 drivers shared a bill which is just insane," Hamilton said with a smile.

"It probably wasn't really that expensive. I did say 'why don't I just get it now, or two of us get it now, and then the next time someone else gets it'.

"And they are like 'no, no, no. I want to pay individually'.

"We all got a receipt, 18 receipts, 18 credit cards, it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I have never seen anything like that before."

Asked who made that suggestion, Hamilton replied: "I am pretty sure it was Nico."

When Hamilton's version of events was then put to his Mercedes team-mate, Rosberg said. "Really? Interesting. From what I can remember, the hidden agreement usually is that the world champion pays, but that might just be my opinion."

Hamilton to serve five-place grid penalty in China

Lewis Hamilton is yet to win since he claimed his third title with victory at October's United States Grand Prix. Credit: PA

Lewis Hamilton's bid to open his winning account for the new season in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix has taken a significant hit after he was served with a five-place grid penalty.

The 31-year-old Mercedes driver has taken on a new gearbox for the third round of the championship in Shanghai following damage sustained to his former one in his first-corner collision with Valtteri Bottas at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It means Hamilton, who is yet to win since he claimed his third title with victory at October's United States Grand Prix, will start only sixth even if he manages to qualify fastest.

"The gearbox of Lewis Hamilton's F1 W07 Hybrid sustained damage in Bahrain which required a physical inspection for full assessment," Mercedes posted on their Twitter feed on Thursday morning.

"Having done so the decision has been taken to change the gearbox rather than carry any risk moving forwards.

"Of the next four track in the normal cycle, Shanghai is the best place to make the change and take the resulting grid penalty. The Shanghai International Circuit has good overtaking opportunities so plenty of chance for Lewis Hamilton to get the hammer down."

Nico Rosberg wins Bahrain Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg leads the field in Bahrain. Credit: PA

Nico Rosberg claimed his second win of the new Formula One season after capitalising on a first-corner collision involving Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg, winner of the season opener in Australia a fortnight ago, got the better of a slow-starting Hamilton to snatch the lead and from there he never looked back.

Hamilton dropped to ninth after his coming-together with Williams' Valtteri Bottas, but recovered to finish third with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen splitting the Mercedes pair.

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F1 bosses still unsure of qualifying format

Bernie Ecclestone speaks to the media in Bahrain. Credit: PA

Formula One's rulemakers have once again failed to reach an agreement on whether to ditch the sport's unpopular new qualifying format.

After a 90-minute meeting in the paddock ahead of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, the sport's team bosses, FIA president Jean Todt and chief executive Bernie Ecclestone could not reach a unanimous verdict.

It means the elimination-style format which flopped in Australia, and again in Bahrain on Saturday, could remain in place for the next race in China.

The FIA and Ecclestone tabled several new proposals in Sunday's meeting - the specifics of which have not been made public - and they will be discussed again in another meeting on Thursday.

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss, claimed the teams wanted to revert back to last year's format, but their suggestion was blocked by Todt.

"We can understand the challenges the FIA and the commercial rigthsholder have," Wolff said. "They said that 2015 is not acceptable for them as it was not good enough and we have to accept it.

"The main message from the team was, please no experiments."

Ecclestone: Some F1 drivers are windbags

F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone. Credit: PA

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has taken aim at the sport's revolting drivers by comparing them to "windbags".

Last week, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, led by Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, took the step of writing an open letter in which they blasted the "obsolete" and "ill-structured" governance of the sport.

But speaking on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Ecclestone issued his own retort, claiming they were put up to the outburst by their teams.

Asked if the drivers were "windbags", Ecclestone replied: "Some of them". Pressed on which drivers he was referring to, the 85-year-old said: "The ones that are".

Ecclestone continued: "They [the drivers] can say what they like can't they? They can't do anything. They can give an opinion. Everyone has got an opinion.

"So really their discussion is with their team and the team has got a voice. They are only saying what the team have told them to say."

Alonso ruled out of the Bahrain Grand Prix

Alonso won't race in Bahrain. Credit: PA

Fernando Alonso has been ruled out of the Bahrain Grand Prix amid concerns he could suffer a punctured lung.

The 34-year-old - who sustained fractured ribs at last weekend's Australian Grand Prix in one of the most spectacular Formula One smashes in recent times - failed a medical test at Bahrain's Sakhir Circuit on Thursday, and his participation at the next race in China in a fortnight's time is also under threat.

Belgian's Stoffel Vandoorne, the untested McLaren reserve driver, has jetted in from Japan to deputise for the two-time world champion.

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