Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for tomorrows Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The duel for pole was close in the previsional runs when Hamilton made a mistake on his lap heading into the long back straight, which allowed Vettel to get to nearly within a second of him.
But in the next run Hamilton was able to improve his lap by four tenths of a second, something Vettel couldn’t match after some hesitation on the brakes during his lap. That was Hamilton’s 64th career pole and will mean he starts on the front for Mercedes’ 150th race.
Vettel and Valterri Bottas were separated by just a thousandth of a second at the chequered flag, while Kimi Raikkonen could only managed fourth having battled with understeer during his lap.
They line up ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who could only manage fifth ahead of Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg in the works Renault. Daniil Kvyat put in a good lap to get into Q3 and eventually go ninth quickest, while Lance Stroll had a decent qualifying session after his nightmare debut in Melbourne and got into the top ten.
Fernando Alonso did his usual in the McLaren and got into Q2, however with the lack of power from the Honda engine affecting his straight-line speed coupled with battery charging issues meant he could only manage 13th, exclaiming over the team radio that he “drove like an animal” to produce that lap – which was eight tenths quicker than his team mate.
The story further down the order was shaken up after Antonio Giovinazzi crashed in the closing stages of Q1. Giovinazzi mimicked an earlier spin by Romain Grosjean, who got away with just a puncture, except his Sauber went straight into the barrier and significantly damaged the front and rear of his car.
That spoiled the laps of Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer, who were eventually penalised after being found to have not slowed down significantly during the double-waved yellows. They line up 19th and 20th respectively, behind Max Verstappen who was only running on four cylinders in the end and had to settle for 18th with the aforementioned penalties applied.