Sebastian Vettel has pipped his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen by less than a tenth of a second to take pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix. The Mercedes drivers struggled to have answers for the pace of the Ferrari.
On his final lap Mercedes Lewis Hamilton made a mistake out of the final corner, losing time and leaving him over half a second of Vettel and fourth behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Earlier in the session, it looked as if Raikkonen had the advantage before Vettel improved on his last lap to go eight hundredths faster.
Mercedes looked unable to respond to the Ferrari, despite taking the last six pole positions in Shanghai. It leaves questions about the teams overall performance after the German team appeared to hold the advantage on both one-lap pace and a significant advantage in long-run pace in practice.
Both of the teams set there fastest times in Q2 on the more durable soft compounds with should give them an advantage over Red Bull. Max Verstappen out-qualified his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was lucky to make it out following an engine blow-out in Practice Three that forced the team into a two-hour race against time which they ultimately won with just seconds to spare.
Vettel said “I was happy with the whole lap. The car was really amazing, just kept getting better. I made a few mistakes on the opening lap. I was a bit beaten up by I knew that if I got a tidy lap and a little bit of margin then I could push.”
Raikkonen added “It was OK but not good enough. It’s not exactly what I wanted. We go tomorrow and see what we can do. We will try to improve. We need to stay out of any issues and see what it brings.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg headed the midfield group, the German was almost one and a half seconds off the pace and his teammate Carlos Sainz was ninth, the pair were split by the Force India of Sergio Perez.
Haas’s strong start to the season wouldn’t continue, Romain Grosjean could only manage tenth while his teammate Kevin Magnussen missed out on Q3 by a tenth and will start eleventh.
Also missing out was Esteban Ocon, he put his Force India twelfth ahead of the McLaren’s. The British team had attempted to use the tow along the back straight, but that wasn’t enough to get both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne out of Q2. Alonso was thirteenth and Vandoorne fourteenth.
Alonso told Sky Sports “It was not enough today. I’m quite happy still with the position, P11 in Australia, P13 in Bahrain and P13 again here.”
“Having the free choice of tyre tomorrow could be an advantage for us, especially if we don’t use the ultrasofts as they may degrade a lot Hopefully we can keep taking points on Sunday. The qualy pace is not good enough yet but we need to analyse why.”
Brendon Hartley got the Toro Rosso into Q2 after pushing out Sergey Sirotkin, after going faster than him in Q1 by three-thousandths of a second. Hartley’s teammate Pierre Gasly, will start seventeenth following his impressive weekend in Bahrain last week.
Williams woes continued as Sergey Sirotkin missed out on Q2 by four-thousandths of a second, his teammate Lance Stroll was eighteenth. On Friday, the Canadian said that the team “were losing time on the straights. We have not improved. We improved a little bit in the corners, but not even close to the extent we were hoping for.”
Charles Leclerc was half a second faster than his Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson made a mistake in the last two corners. The Monacan spun after losing the rear under power at the final corner.