Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton braced for hard race - and close season

Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time in final practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo (pic), who had qualified fifth but started fourth after Hamilton dropped five places on the grid, had been the man leading Red Bull's charge.

Meanwhile, Verstappen had been forced to start from 15th place following a qualifying crash.

"Calling him a "****head" in the cool-down room as he watched highlights of the grand prix, Hamilton later added: "There needs to be a certain respect between drivers.

"It is interesting to hear Christian has said that because they have a vehicle which should be getting good results, but through inexperience, or not mature decisions, they are not", Hamilton said. This miscalculation led to Verstappen striking Hamilton as he attempted to avoid Alonso.

The Dutchman divebombed Hamilton on the run down to Turn 1 on the second lap of the race - but with Hamilton attempting to stick it out on the outside, the pair eventually made contact exiting the corner, with Hamilton's wing clipping Verstappen's rear tyre. It also meant Raikkonen was retired from the race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner cited the coming-together as "hard racing" but Hamilton said: 'It is interesting to hear Christian has said that because they have a vehicle which should be getting good results but through inexperience, or not mature decisions, they are not.

"I have no idea what's going to happen in the race", Hamilton told reporters on Saturday.

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"Then I accepted defeat and I just backed out because I knew he was going to try and run me wide. It was a bit unnecessary.But in the heat of the moment you can get frustrated".

Defending champion Hamilton was able to carry on, but as he watched the incident back on a television replay, the Brit labelled Verstappen, 20, a "d***head".

Indeed, in his debut at the Monaco Grand Prix, Verstappen crashed out following a clash with Romain Grosjean's Lotus auto - which saw the Dutchman punished by the FIA with a five-place grid penalty for the following race.

"Today wasn't the best of days and tomorrow is going to be one of the hardest races for us in some time", said the world champion. I had a good tow on the straight, the last corner was really good so it allowed me to stay close to Lewis. "Shanghai has been a good hunting ground for me so I really hope we can go there with some strength", he said.

"Lewis was trying to go around the outside and at one point I was ahead".

Whilst Max Verstappen looks set to remain a controversial character in the sport, his talent is undeniable.

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