Vettel beats Raikkonen to Chinese Grand Prix pole

Sebastian Vettel beat his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to P1 for the Chinese Grand Prix by less than a tenth of a second to claim his 52nd pole position.

Raikkonen looked set to top qualifying after setting the fastest time on the first runs in Q3, and was ahead of his team-mate in the first two sectors of his final lap.

But Raikkonen’s slow pace in the final sector gave Vettel a shot and the championship leader set the best final sector time of the session to snatch pole by 0.087 seconds.

Both the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers set their Q2 times using the soft Pirellis, so will start the race on that compound while the rest of the top ten will all use ultrasofts

The Silver Arrows never looked to be a serious pole position threat, with neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton able to improve on their first-run times in Q3 and both having to abandon their final runs.

Bottas was third, half-a-tenth faster than Hamilton, with the latter only 0.12 seconds faster than Max Verstappen.

Daniel Ricciardo was sixth after joining the first segment of qualifying late thanks to a turbo problem in free practice, lapping 0.152 seconds slower than his Red Bull team-mate.

Full credit to Red Bull in fixing Ricciardo’s car just in time for Q1. The Honey Badger was able to take part in qualifying and P6 is the end result. That’s team effort.

Nico Hulkenberg was best-of-the rest for Renault. 1.473 seconds off the pace, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.

Romain Grosjean was slowest in Q3, ending qualifying tenth and 0.036 seconds off Sainz’s Renault.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in Q2 for the first time this season after a poor middle sector on his final lap prevented him from improving on his first-run time.

This allowed Sainz to relegate him to P11 by 16 thousandths of a second, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon not far behind.

The McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne gave each other a tow on the long back straight, but it wasn’t enough to haul the Renault-powered cars into Q2 and left them P13 and P14 respectively.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was slowest in Q2 and ended up P15, just under three tenths slower than Vandoorne.

Sergey Sirotkin was knocked out in Q1 at the last minute when Sainz jumped up the order lap and pushed the Williams driver down to P16 in the closing moments of the first stage of qualifying.

Sirotkin had looked to be a serious Q2 threat, but failed to match his personal best pace in the first sector and ended up half-a-tenth slower than Hartley.

Bahrain Grand Prix hero Pierre Gasly was P17, giving away enough time in the middle sector relative to his previous best to fail to make the cut, admitting after the session that overnight set-up changes had made life more difficult for him in qualifying.

Lance Stroll was P18 for Williams ahead of the Sauber of Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc survived a spin after losing the rear on the power exiting the final left-hander on his second run to relegate team-mate Marcus Ericsson to last on their final runs.

Ericsson has been summoned by the stewards for an investigation into not slowing under the yellow flags thrown for Leclerc’s spin.

So a brilliant qualifying result for Ferrari. Another front row for Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. To have the Scuderia half a second clear from rival Mercedes is surprising. Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix is going to be fascinating.

Qualifying results, Chinese Grand Prix:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.095s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m31.182s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.625s
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.675s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m31.796s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m31.948s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m32.532s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m32.758s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m32.819s
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m32.855s
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m32.986s
12 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m33.057s
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m33.232s
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m33.505s
15 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m33.795s
16 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m34.062s
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m34.101s
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m34.285s
19 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m34.454s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m34.914s

8 thoughts to “Vettel beats Raikkonen to Chinese Grand Prix pole”

  1. Chinese Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    For 99 per cent of the final part of qualifying, it looked like Kimi Raikkonen would become the oldest polesitter in 25 years. But he was undone by Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel in a dramatic session where Mercedes were comprehensively beaten.

    Raikkonen, 38, who was last on pole in Monaco last year, lost out by just 0.087s, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas a staggering half a second off the pace in third as the reigning world champions struggled to get the ultrasoft to work.

    It ends Mercedes’ stranglehold on pole position at Shanghai, having taken P1 in each of the last six years. It was also Ferrari’s second successive front row lock-out.

    The last time they achieved that feat was in 2006 at the United States and French Grands Prix, which incidentally were also Michael Schumacher’s last two pole positions.

    Vettel and Raikkonen reinforced Ferrari’s dominant form in final practice by setting the pace in Q1, with Vettel a full 0.750s quicker than the leading Mercedes of Bottas in third.

    Reigning world champion Hamilton, having led the way on Friday, was just over a second off the ultimate pace in sixth, as the cooler conditions at Shanghai on Saturday appeared to hamper Mercedes.

    Red Bull did a tremendous job changing Daniel Ricciardo’s engine, after a suspected turbo failure in FP3, to get him out with three minutes to go in the session. The Australian had just one run and despite running wide at the hairpin, he did just enough to scrape through to Q2, two places above the drop zone.

    Sergey Sirotkin wasn’t so lucky, the Williams driver missing out by an agonising 0.049s. Pierre Gasly, meanwhile, couldn’t repeat his Bahrain heroics, his final lap in Q1 only good enough for 17th.

    Lance Stroll and the Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were the other drivers to be eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying, Leclerc having been lucky to avoid the barriers after a lairy spin out of the final corner.

    Ferrari and Mercedes opted to do their first runs in Q2 on the soft tyre, as they considered their strategy options.

    The Prancing Horse replicated their advantage, with Raikkonen and Vettel setting an impressive pace on the more durable rubber.

    Mercedes could not respond and though both Bottas and Hamilton went quicker on a second run on the same compound, they remained four and six tenths respectively off the ultimate pace.

    Hamilton and Bottas headed back out on another set of soft tyres while Ferrari opted for the ultrasofts. This time, the Mercedes duo found more performance with Hamilton and Bottas going first and second.

    Raikkonen and Vettel were both on course to go quicker, but they aborted their laps, meaning the top four drivers will start Sunday’s race on the softs.

    Sainz once again left it late, scraping into Q3 at the expense of F1’s Power Rankings leader Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, with the top 10 drivers separated by just one second.

    Esteban Ocon, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, who tried and failed to successfully make a tow work for each other, and Brendon Hartley were the others to miss out on the pole position shootout.

    Raikkonen took first blood in Q3, setting the fastest time in all three sectors, ahead of Vettel, with Bottas once again the quickest Mercedes, albeit 0.425s off the pace, with Hamilton a fraction back in fourth.

    On the second runs, Bottas improved but stayed third while Hamilton aborted his lap after a mistake at the hairpin leaving Ferrari to battle it out for pole.

    Raikkonen blitzed the first two sectors but Vettel was just 0.098s adrift and when the Iceman lost time in the final sector, his team mate made no mistake to snatch pole position by just 0.087s and set a new track record.

    Max Verstappen was best of the rest in fifth, ahead of Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo, with Nico Hulkenberg to start seventh for the third time this season.

    Sergio Perez, who was the only driver to only do one timed lap in Q3, Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.

    So advantage Ferrari then. But can they convert a first pole in Shanghai since 2004 into victory? Vettel will certainly be hoping so – no driver has ever won the first three races in a championship season and gone on to lose the title…

  2. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso admits P13 was the “maximum”. has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso says 13th position was the “maximum” his McLaren Formula 1 team could have hoped for in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

    The Spanish driver had admitted on Friday that it would be difficult for the team to make it into Q3, but was hoping for 11th place in order to be the top driver able to choose tyres for the race freely.

    While Alonso expects those starting on ultrasoft tyres to struggle quickly in the race, he conceded McLaren needs to find more speed.

    “We were trying for P11, which would have been ideal, starting first outside of Q3 to choose tyres, but it wasn’t possible. P13 was the maximum,” said Alonso after qualifying.

    “We’ll try to score points tomorrow. I think we are in a good position.

    “The last two or three cars in Q3 will struggle because they will have to stop early with the purple tyres. We still need to find more speed, as we said in Bahrain.

    “In equal conditions we are P13 so we have to improve, that’s clear.”

    Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne gave each other tows during Q3 in order to boost their top speed, the Spaniard getting it near the end of the session thanks to being the quicker of the two in Q1.

    “In Q1 we were deciding who would give the tow to the other,” Alonso explained. “I finished ahead in Q1 so we decided I’d give Stoffel a tow in the first run and then he would give it to me.

    “I guess it wasn’t on TV when I gave it to him because they never show that, but when he gives it to me, they do show it.

    “We tried to gain a few tenths there, but there’s still a long way to go. We knew it was very few days from Bahrain to here so let’s see if in the next one we can be in Q3 in normal circumstances.”

    The McLaren driver suggested he will opt for a one-stop strategy tomorrow, although he expects tyre degradation to be an issue.

    “It’s on the limit between one and two. I think all those in Q3 with the purple ones will stop twice and those outside of it maybe have the advantage of stopping once,” he said.

    “But there’ll be tyre problems tomorrow and it’s going to be a race of managing them as best as possible.”

  3. This was a challenging qualifying session for Mercedes. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton could only manage third and fourth. But was half a second slower than Ferrari. Mercedes blames tyre woes for lack of pace. has the full details.

    Mercedes has blamed difficulties in managing tyre temperatures for it being beaten to the front row by Formula 1 rival Ferrari at the Chinese Grand Prix.

    Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen comfortably locked out the top two positions on the grid with strong form throughout the session in Shanghai – with Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton nowhere near close enough to properly challenge.

    Speaking after the session, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckoned that his team’s struggles owed more to not getting its tyres into the right operating window than any major problem with its car.

    “I think it’s tricky,” Wolff told Sky TV. “We’re lacking grip, and you can fall out of the window by the tyres getting too hot, or by the tyres being too cold.

    “The two extremes like we had in Bahrain. I think this is what happened. I think it’s a tyre issue.”

    Wolff admitted, however, that Mercedes would have to seek out some answers as to why Ferrari was so strong.

    “They’ve been really strong all day, already in the morning,” he said. “Qualifying performance, they put one on top. It’s really… we have something to think about.”

    He added: “Tomorrow it’s expected to be much warmer, so I hope that we’ve done the right thing set-up-wise and we’ll have better pace in the race than Ferrari.”

    Tyre problems are not a novelty for Mercedes, as its drivers struggled to get the softer compounds in the optimal working range throughout much of 2017.

    Asked after qualifying whether Mercedes was suffering from a recurrence of last year’s issues, Bottas nodded: “Yes. We saw in the race before that we’ve been better in general with the harder compounds and that is something we’re still working on to get more out of.

    “Ferrari is doing something better on that.”

    However, the Finn – who beat Hamilton but finished over half a second adrift of pole-sitter Vettel – insisted that tyre woes were unlikely to account for all of the gap to Ferrari.

    “There was nothing in the lap we could have gained that much,” he said. “Maybe a little bit in terms of getting the tyres absolutely perfect for the lap but it’s not half a second.

    “They [Ferrari] have a really strong car, you can see especially in the long corners – Turn 1, 2 – they make some good gains to us.

    “Obviously now without big difference on the straights they can keep the gains they make in the corners. We definitely have work to do.

    “Tomorrow is a different day. A long race ahead, like we saw last weekend it will be close, hopefully we can make up tomorrow what we lost today.”

  4. Marcus Ericsson has been handed a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

    The Sauber driver was on a flying lap in Q1 when he was shown warning flags for teammate Charles Leclerc, who had spun coming out of the final corner.

    Ericsson steered around the other Sauber and completed his lap, and was judged by the FIA not to have slowed sufficiently.

    After being called to see the stewards, it was deemed that he had broken the rules and was handed a five-place penalty, which won’t affect his starting position as he qualified last anyway.

    An FIA statement said: “The Stewards heard from Marcus Ericsson, the driver of car 9 and the team representative and reviewed the video evidence which clearly showed that the driver attempted to set a meaningful lap time after passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector, contrary to the requirements set out in the Race Director’s Event Notes (10.1) in breach of Article 12.1.1 i.”

    As well as the grid penalty, Ericsson has been given three penalty points on his licence, moving him up to five points in total for the past 12 months.


  5. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen has no explanation for last-gasp qualifying defeat to team-mate Sebastian Vettel. has the details.

    Kimi Raikkonen has no explanation for losing Chinese Grand Prix pole position to Ferrari Formula 1 teammate Sebastian Vettel at the last moment in qualifying.

    Raikkonen was quicker than Vettel in Q2, on provisional pole after the first runs in Q3 and posted the fastest first and second sectors of the session on his final lap.

    The Finn failed to improve in the final sector and only marginally lowered his best time, while Vettel was able to overturn the deficit from the first two sectors and snatch pole by less than a tenth.

    Asked by what happened in the final sector, Raikkonen said: “Nothing really happened. I lost some time, but I don’t know. It wasn’t like I did some big mistake.”

    He added: “It was close [to Vettel], close enough to make a difference. Not ideal. Tomorrow’s the day, we’ll see what happens.”

    Vettel said he knew he would be able to make a decent improvement after lapping 0.161s slower than Raikkonen on the first runs.

    He was “too keen” exiting Turns 3 and 6 on that lap but said the car had been “unbelievable” throughout qualifying and peaked in Q3.

    “Right from the first lap in the first part of qualifying I was really happy,” he said. “We didn’t really do much on the car, I didn’t have to fight to find [the right set-up]. Usually you change quite a lot.

    “I knew I had a bit more and the last lap I got it all together.”

    Valtteri Bottas qualified the best of the Mercedes third, more than half a second off the pace.

    Vettel said the gap was a surprise but expects a “long, tough race” between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, which was slightly slower than Mercedes and locked out the third row.

    “To have that much of a gap is a surprise,” said Vettel. “It’s also a track where you need to find that sweet spot and if you are a little bit out you easily drop a little bit of time.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow that gap disappears and it’s a very tight race. Obviously I wouldn’t mind if it stays there but I think it will be a tight race among the top three teams.”

  6. What a difference a week makes for Toro Rosso and Pierre Gasly. After becoming a hero in qualifying in Bahrain, it was back to reality in Shanghai. Gasly was left feeling baffled by “massive step back” in China. has the news story.

    Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly was perplexed by his “massive step back” in Chinese Grand Prix qualifying, saying his car lost “all its strength” overnight.

    On the back of a star-making run to fourth place in Bahrain, Gasly qualified a lowly 17th for the Shanghai race.

    The Chinese circuit was not expected to suit the Honda-powered STR13 as well as Bahrain had, but Gasly’s pace in particular suffered a noticeable decline between Friday and Saturday.

    “We knew top 10 would be difficult, but [we expected to be] around P11, P12, and actually to be a couple of tenths behind,” Gasly said.

    “I think today we made a massive step back compared to yesterday, we lost a lot of performance, and that’s what we didn’t really expect.”

    Gasly said that changes made to his car between the two days not only didn’t pay off, but had “a much bigger impact” than anticipated – and explained that the team didn’t have the time to then make any major tweaks before qualifying.

    “We made some changes and completely changed in terms of balance, it’s completely opposite of yesterday, we lost all the strength of the car we had in the package, and [it’s] just super tricky.

    “I almost crashed in Turn 8 this morning, I almost crashed in Turn 10 as well. Just massive loss of rear grip.

    “And yesterday [this] was actually our strength – good stability.”

    Asked to elaborate on how he was giving up laptime, he said: “Massive oversteer, traction, I have no traction.

    “Ultrasoft tyres in qualifying, usually you have massive grip and you feel the potential, but it was just wheelspinning everywhere. Turn 3, Turn 6, Turn 10, Turn 13, all the tractions.”

    Gasly conceded the STR13 was proving “pretty inconsistent” in 2018 so far, with his superb showing in Bahrain sandwiched by Q1 exits in Melbourne and Shanghai.

    He added, however: “Melbourne was my mistake. I would’ve been in Q2 pretty easy. Today, I put my lap, everything together, and [it was] just big struggle with the rear. Big surprise, yeah, today.”

    Teammate Brendon Hartley, who made it out of Q1 in Shanghai but had to ultimately settle for 15th, reckoned wind and temperatures were the big factors in Toro Rosso’s varying performance.

    “I don’t think many places higher up the grid was possible, we don’t have anywhere near the same performance compared to other competitors that we did in Bahrain,” Hartley said.

    “My personal opinion is that the temperature and the wind is the two biggest factors – not saying I have the answers but it seems to be a trend, it happened in Australia in the race as well.

    “Every other time that it’s been hotter we’ve been more competitive, and every time it’s been windier we seem to suffer a lot more than others.

    “Aerodynamics on a Formula 1 car are very complicated and when you have wind it really messes with aerodynamics, we seem to struggle.

    “The good news is we know we have potential in the car but it’s just about unlocking it in every scenario.”

  7. After a spectacular engine failure in final practice, Red Bull Racing had a race against time to prepare Daniel Ricciardo’s car for qualifying. The team fixed it and the Honey Badger was able to compete in the session. The end result was P6. Despite the power unit issue, Ricciardo is “optimism reducing” over Renault progress. has the story.

    Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo admits he is becoming less optimistic about Renault’s chances of improving its Formula 1 engine amid further problems at the Chinese Grand Prix.

    A week after his early retirement from the Bahrain GP with an energy store problem, Ricciardo suffered a spectacular engine failure in final practice in China and only just made it out for the end of Q1 following an engine change.

    He went on to qualify a place behind teammate Max Verstappen in sixth.

    Asked by if he was starting to give up hope of Renault reliability progress so far into the current engine rules cycle, Ricciardo replied: “I’d never give up hope, but for sure the window of optimism reduces over time.

    “I try not to really set any expectations on anything now, just roll with it and hopefully it all works sweet. If it doesn’t, it’s always going to be difficult to take.

    “Unfortunately it’s a little bit familiar territory. We’ve had our ups and downs for the last few years. So this is not new to me.

    “But I would say that after winter testing we didn’t expect to be here in race three with the issues in Bahrain and this morning already.

    “The winter testing looked a lot more positive from a reliability standpoint.”

    Ricciardo only had time for one flying lap in Q1 and scraped through in 14th place, admitting the lack of morning running on ultrasofts had left him unsure how hard he could push.

    “It was obviously really close. We definitely weren’t doing it for the cameras. That was literally as quick as we could have got out,” he said.

    “With about half an hour to go I went in to see the engineers and said ‘how are we looking?’.

    “I’d say they were realistic as opposed to optimistic and they said ‘it’s going to be very tight’. It was like ‘get ready, but sorry if it doesn’t happen’.

    “We had a bit going on but I’m very happy to have got it done – for the boys as well, they worked their arse off for two hours and if we’d just missed it by a minute it would have been heartbreaking.”

    Though teammate Verstappen had a smoother day, he was also frustrated with Renault.

    “The gap on the straights was bigger than we expected and also from our side just finetuning the power modes was not great,” he said.

    “Some of the issues I’ve had before, like close to the limiter and when I’m shifting and stuff it just doesn’t really work properly.”

    Ricciardo is out of contract this year, and Red Bull is monitoring sister team Toro Rosso’s progress with Honda engines.

    Asked if getting a different engine for 2019 was a priority, Ricciardo replied: “We’ll see after a few more races.

    “Once we get to Europe a lot of things will settle with car performance and then we’ll probably start to see trends.”

  8. Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari’s strong Chinese Grand Prix form in completely different conditions to Bahrain is “very strange”.

    Ferrari beat Mercedes in a straight fight in Bahrain last week, but Mercedes was expected to rediscover its pace advantage in China and Hamilton edged Kimi Raikkonen in Friday practice.

    However, Mercedes slipped back significantly in qualifying and was half a second adrift of championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who headed a Ferrari one-two as Hamilton qualified fourth behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.

    Asked how much of a concern Ferrari’s consistency is, Hamilton replied: “Right now I’m not really thinking about the Ferraris, I’m trying to understand why we don’t have the pace.

    “For some reason their car is working everywhere. It’s very strange. You go to Bahrain where it’s very hot and we would expect Ferrari to be strong, but they are even stronger than we expected.

    “But in the race, we actually weren’t too bad, which wasn’t expected. Then we come here, with conditions you would expect we would be doing well, but a bit like last year their car works everywhere.

    “How long it will last, I don’t know.”

    When Mercedes and Ferrari used soft tyres in the second part of qualifying, Hamilton and Bottas lapped close to Ferrari.

    Hamilton said that was the only time in qualifying his car felt “normal” and could not explain why there was then such a deficit on the ultrasoft tyre.

    He was also confused by the car being “night and day” different after a positive Friday.

    “Today was definitely a shock when we got into FP3 and the car was completely different,” said Hamilton, who spun in Saturday morning practice.

    “I didn’t make any changes. Firstly, tomorrow we could regret it, and qualifying could have been different.

    “So, we stuck with where we were and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable to drive.”

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff compared the situation to last year, when it could not get the softest Pirellis to work properly, but explained that instead of overheating the tyres the team is not generating enough temperature in China.

    “You can see that Ferrari puts the tyre in the right window [and] from the onboard the car is like on rails,” he added.

    Wolff said qualifying behind Ferrari gives Mercedes “plenty of possible plays” in the race and thinks Sunday will offer “proof of concept”.

    If Mercedes still struggles, he admitted the team will need to work out if it has a more fundamental problem.

    “If we are in the sweet spot, the car is very fast,” said Wolff. “We have seen occasions more than Ferrari where the tyre drops out because it is too hot, or drops out because it is too low.

    “Is that inherent to the car? I don’t know.

    “Maybe it is trickier to get it there, but maybe its peak performance is also superior to our competitors if we get there.”


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