Championship leader Valtteri Bottas scored his first Formula 1 pole position of the season in qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The Mercedes driver beat his team-mate Lewis Hamilton to P1 by just 23 thousandths of a second, with Sebastian Vettel three tenths down in the Ferrari.
Bottas held the advantage through much of the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying, although Hamilton did set the pace in Q2 thanks to having a second run on medium Pirellis.
Vettel beat his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to fourth by 0.017 seconds, the Prancing Horse duo jumping ahead of Max Verstappen on their final runs.
This was thanks to Verstappen failing to cross the line to start his lap before the chequered flag after becoming stuck in a queue of cars, with Vettel passing him at the hairpin late in the lap to ensure that he was able to.
That left Verstappen fifth, 0.542 seconds off the pace and over eight tenths faster than Red Bull Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly, who was also unable to complete a second lap.
Daniel Ricciardo had only one fresh set of soft Pirelli for Q3, but used it to beat Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to eighth by just 0.004 seconds.
Neither Haas driver set a time in Q3, with both also failing to start their laps at the end of the session due to traffic.
Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat failed to improve on his first-run time in Q2 having been seventh early on, meaning he was shuffled down to P11 and fastest of those eliminated in the first segment of qualifying.
Sergio Perez was just 0.063 seconds further behind in the Racing Point, just over a tenth faster than the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
The Iceman reported he lost some engine power over the radio after not improving by enough to make the top ten. This was his first non-appearance in Q3 since the 2016 season…
McLaren duo Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were P15 and P16, separated by 0.444 seconds, with Sainz admitting he was disappointed not to be four positions higher after what appeared to be decent lap.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was the only driver with a fighting chance of escaping Q1 not to do so, ending up P16 after lapping 0.144 seconds slower than Norris – the third time this season he’s fallen in the first stage of qualifying.
Williams pairing George Russell and Robert Kubica were P17 and P18, a second down on Stroll and separated by 0.028 seconds.
Kubica complained of massive oversteer in the session, while Russell described his lap as “rubbish”.
Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a time after hitting problems on his first run suspected to be related to the engine.
Toro Rosso driver Alex Albon did not participate in qualifying thanks to monocoque damage sustained in his crash at the end of the final practice session.
Congratulations Valtteri Bottas in claiming pole position in the sport’s 1000th Grand Prix event. The new and confident Mercedes driver is looking strong heading into the race. It’s going to be a fascinating fight for championship honours.
Chinese Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.547s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.570s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.848s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m31.865s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m32.089s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m32.930s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m32.958s
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m32.962s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari –
10 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m33.236s
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m33.299s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m33.419s
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m33.523s
15 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m33.967s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m34.292s
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m35.253s
18 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m35.281s
19 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari –
20 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda –