F1 China: Hamilton takes pole, Ferrari pile on the pressure

Lewis Hamilton - Qualifying - Chinese Grand Prix. Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Lewis Hamilton topped the times to take pole position in qualifying ahead of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, beating Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to the top spot by just two hundredths of a second, in what was an extremely close session between Mercedes and Ferrari.

The Brit set a time of 1:31.678 on a set of the super-soft tyres, in what were much better conditions than had been experienced earlier in the weekend. Despite both Ferrari drivers topping the times in Q1 and Q2, it was Hamilton who stole the upper hand over Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen going into tomorrow’s race with a stunning final lap to deny Vettel his first pole position of the year.

Valtteri Bottas finished in third ahead of his fellow countryman Raikkonen, with Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo in fifth, though some way off the pace of the top two teams, eight tenths further back. The Australian had early problems, with this RB13 up on stands in the garage as the session got underway, but that did not stop him from getting in some good running, Red Bull however just do not look to have the form here in China.

Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa was sixth for the British squad, ahead of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Nico Hulkenberg and Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez in eighth.

Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was ninth and a rare two places ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr, who had the Williams of Lance Stroll in between him and the Russian. The Spaniard was the first of the drivers to get a choice of tyres for tomorrow’s race however, having been just one tenth off the time needed to go through to the final top ten shoot out.

Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen was twelfth fastest, ahead of McLaren-Honda F1 Team driver Fernando Alonso, who put in a fantastic lap to take him through to Q2 in tenth position, the Spaniard really driving the socks off the MCL32. The double world champion also missed out on going through to Q3 by two tenths of a second, a sensational effort from Alonso who is currently be lying the many problems being experienced at McLaren.

Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson ended the session in fourteenth place, just ahead of his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, who with just seconds of Q1 left, lost the Sauber coming into the final corner. The Italian took all the kerb on the way in, and just a bit too much on the way out, causing him to lose control and slam hard into the barriers, sustaining massive damage to the C36. Thankfully the Italian was fine, and still managed to end the session in fifteen position.

With such a late crash however, that caused major problems for a number of drivers who were in the process of putting their final flying laps together at the time, seeing Jolyon Palmer and Esteban Ocon lose out big time.

Stoffel Vandoorne missed out on getting through to Q2 by just six hundredths of a second, on what is set to be a difficult weekend for the McLaren Honda squad, and lines up in sixteenth ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean.

The Frenchman had a hairy start to the qualifying session, after losing the rear of the VF17 at the exit of the final corner, spinning the car and missing the barriers by millimetres before correcting the spin and continuing on. Moments later however the team advised the Frenchman over team radio that he had sustained a puncture, and he headed for the pits.

Grosjean did get back out on track in the final moments, but was unable to make it out of Q1 when the Giovinazzi incident ended his running early, meaning the Frenchman had to settle for seventeenth place.

The Haas man was just ahead of Jolyon Palmer in eighteenth, who was also caught out by the crash of Giovinazzi in the final moments, seeing the Brit unable to complete what looked likely to have been his fastest lap of the session so far.

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen had trouble early on, reporting over team radio that something was wrong with the engine. The Dutchman returned to the pits but as he did, the 19-year-old almost clouted the barriers on entering the pit lane, before being frustrating called to the weighing bridge, losing further valuable time.

Verstappen did get back out on track with time to get in a couple of laps, but the power unit problem persisted and the Dutchman ended the session in nineteenth place.

Force India newbie Esteban Ocon also fell foul of the Giovinazzi incident, seeing him end the qualifying session at the back of the grid.

Though Mercedes were able to come out on top today, Ferrari look set to cause them plenty of problems in tomorrow’s race, with their pace from Australia not going away.

That should provide us with an exciting battle up front, whilst the middle order is also set for a close fight, in what should hopefully be an extremely entertaining race.

Shanghai International Circuit Qualifying Results

144Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes1:33.3331:32.4061:31.678
25Sebastian VettelGERFerrari1:33.0781:32.3911:31.864
37Valtteri BottasFINMercedes1:33.6841:32.5521:31.865
477Kimi RäikkönenFINFerrari1:33.3411:32.1811:32.140
53Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull Racing1:34.0411:33.5461:33.033
619Felipe MassaBRAWilliams1:34.2051:33.7591:33.507
727Nico HulkenbergGERRenault1:34.4531:33.6361:33.580
811Sergio PerezMEXForce India1:34.6571:33.9201:33.706
926Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso1:34.4401:34.0341:33.719
1018Lance StrollCANWilliams1:33.9861:34.0901:34.220
1155Carlos SainzESPToro Rosso1:34.5671:34.150
1220Kevin MagnussenDENHaas1:34.9421:34.164
1314Fernando AlonsoESPMcLaren1:34.4991:34.372
149Marcus EricssonSWESauber1:34.8921:35.046
1536Antonio GiovinazziITASauber1:34.963
162Stoffel VandoorneBELMcLaren1:35.023
178Romain GrosjeanFRAHaas1:35.223
1830Jolyon PalmerGBRRenault1:35.279
1933Max VerstappenNEDRed Bull Racing1:35.433
2031Esteban OconFRAForce India1:35.496