Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton stole the Chinese Grand Prix pole from Sebastian Vettel in spectacular fashion putting in a stonking lap of 1:31.678 – a new Shanghai International Circuit lap record. Hamilton beat Michael Schumacher’s previous record – one which has been in place since the first Chinese Grand Prix in 2004, a testament to the sheer speed of the new generation of F1 cars. This is Hamilton’s 6th consecutive pole and the 63rd of his career – moving ever closer to Ayrton Senna’s record.
It was a very tight battle for the leading drivers with Sebastian Vettel edging Valterri Bottas out for second place by 0.001s or 5.9cm as Toto Wolff calculated. That small margin was a little unexpected – Ferrari had looked a lot stronger in the third practice session but Hamilton beat Vettel by almost two-tenths of a second. Similarly, despite excellent earlier form, Kimi Raikkonen only managed fourth place, 0.462s off Hamilton’s pace.
Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth fastest for Red Bull Racing with Massa coming in behind him for Williams. The Brazilian will start ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, and Daniil Kvyat. Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10, 0.713s off his Williams team mate’s time.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr missed out on a Q3 spot by only 0.060s after complaining about the rear of his car getting away from him while exiting corners. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen finished 0.014s behind Sainz to claim 12th place ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who radioed in to say he was “pushing like an animal”.
Ericsson will start his Sauber from 14th place on the grid with team mate Antonio Giovinazzi behind him. Giovinazzi brought the first qualifying session to an early end when he lost control of his Sauber and crashed into the barriers as he exited the final corner. The Sauber team have quite a job ahead of them – the Sauber is severely damaged and will require some rebuilding overnight.
Stoffel Vandoorne will start from 16th place ahead of Romain Grosjean and Joylon Palmer who were behind Giovinazzi on track and were not able to improve their laps to make it into Q2. Both drivers are under investigation for speeding under the double waved yellows.
Max Verstappen qualified 19th for Red Bull following a loss of power caused by an engine software issue. Esteban Ocon takes up the final grid position for what is set to be a very intriguing Chinese Grand Prix.