LCH will start the Bahrain Grand Prix from only ninth as his rival Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position.

Hamilton has been off the pace all weekend and, while he posted the fourth quickest lap in a thrill-a-minute qualifying session, he will be shunted down the order following his penalty for a gearbox change.

Kimi Raikkonen joins Vettel at the sharp end as Ferrari secured a front-row lockout with the Italian team laying down the championship gauntlet to Mercedes. Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third.

Vettel finished 0.134 seconds clear of Raikkonen, with Bottas marginally further back. Hamilton was 0.262 seconds down on Vettel’s best lap.

“I was very happy that I got the second run and I got it clean,” Vettel said. “The car has been excellent all weekend so far, so I am looking forward to the race.

“If the car is responding to what you want to do, it is a pleasure to drive, otherwise it is a fight. Australia was more of a fight, but we have improved here.

“I feel good now, but tomorrow is a different story and it is a long race, but the car is quick so that usually helps.”

Daniel Ricciardo lines up in fifth for Red Bull, but his team-mate Max Verstappen – expected to be a contender for pole here – saw his ragged start to the new campaign continue after a 140mph shunt.