Confirming once again that Ferrari have done a tremendous job last winter, Sebastian Vettel has taken pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen makes it a Ferrari front row lockout by going second fastest. Both Mercedes will start behind them as they were half a second slower.
As is usual on this track, this rapidly created queuing on the back straight, with everybody trying to find some space on track to set their flying laps.
While Vettel ended up quickest, topping Raikkonen, Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton, the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was still stuck in the garage as the team continued to work in the engine area, likely due to the repercussions of his turbo failure earlier on in FP3.
Leclerc on the other hand caused the unexpected action on track, as he only just kept his car out of the barriers. He lost control and spun the rear wheels on the exit of the final corner, swinging the rear one side to the other before he spun halfway round, before turning it back and getting the car going again. Obviously, this ruined two laps for the Sauber driver, so he decided to return to the pits and take new tyres for a final run.
With 2:40 left on the clock, Ricciardo finally emerged out on track, with mechanics congratulating each other in the garage, chuffed they put the car together in time for the Australian's qualifying. Ricciardo's lap really wasn't anything to write home about however, and with 15th fastest he only just made it through to Q2.
In fact, once back in the box, the team continued to work on his car, notably in the barge board area, which may suggest it wasn't actually complete for his first run.
In Q2, Valtteri Bottas kicked off the action, soon followed by Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel within the next minute. Of them, Raikkonen was fastest, followed closely by Vettel. Both Ferraris managed to set their best in a single lap on softs, whereas both Mercedes needed a second consecutive flier, to end up as 4 and 6 tenths for Bottas and Hamilton respectively. Ricciardo later snuck into third and Verstappen in 5th, degrading Hamilton to provisional 6th.
At McLaren they opted for an interesting strategy, as in the middle of Q2, Alonso was sent out on used tyres to give Vandoorne a tow. This allowed Alonso just a single flying lap at the end of the session, but that probably didn't matter much, as both McLaren's ended up getting eliminated in 13th and 14th.
Both Mercedes drivers also returned to the track, improving on their earlier bests to move up into first and second, still on softs. Both Ferraris also returned with ultrasofts, but they abandoned their flying laps on these tyres, meaning they will also start the race on the yellow marked soft Pirelli tyres.
Q3 saw Raikkonen take charge immediately, with his first flying lap nearly 2 tenths faster than Vettel's. Valktteri Bottas ended up at 0.425s and Hamilton at 0.475s. The Red Bulls had to give in another extra 2 tenths, with Hulkenberg's 7th best time already 1.4s down.
On the second outings, Bottas failed to improve, and Hamilton abandoned his lap early.
Raikkonen did 3 purple sectors to improve yet again, but Vettel shaved off even more time, ending up 0.087s ahead of Raikkonen to take another pole position for Ferrari.
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:32.921||1:32.063||1:31.625||20|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:33.283||1:31.914||1:31.675||17|
|5||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:32.932||1:32.809||1:31.796||12|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:33.877||1:32.688||1:31.948||12|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:33.464||1:32.931||1:32.758||13|
|10||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:33.238||1:32.524||1:32.855||19|
|11||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:33.359||1:32.986||-||13|
|12||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:33.585||1:33.057||-||9|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||1:33.428||1:33.232||-||11|
|14||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||1:33.824||1:33.505||-||11|
|15||28||Brendon Hartley||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:34.013||1:33.795||-||15|
|16||35||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||1:34.062||-||-||7|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda||1:34.101||-||-||9|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:34.285||-||-||7|
|19||16||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||1:34.454||-||-||9|
|20||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:34.914||-||-||9|