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