Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton extends pole run as Sebastian Vettel splits the Mercedes drivers again
Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix and will line up ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who prevented Valtteri...
Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix and will line up ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who prevented Valtteri Bottas giving Mercedes a front row lockout by just 0.001s.
That equates to 5.91cm over a lap of Shanghai.
Hamilton’s lap of 1m31.678s gave him his 63rd Formula 1 pole by 0.186s over Vettel, which meant the triple world champion secured his sixth pole at the Shanghai circuit and his sixth successive first place grid spot – a feat he has now achieved twice in his career and becomes only the second driver to do that in F1 history after Ayrton Senna.
The result also gives Mercedes its 75th F1 pole for its 150th start as a constructor in the championship.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton said: “It’s been an interesting weekend so far without testing yesterday and today was a real challenge for all of us in the sense that we had to compile a lot of yesterday’s testing into this morning and I hope that we’ve hit the nail on the head with the balance of the car.
“The Ferraris looked so fast through practice this morning and then through each qualifying session, so we knew it was going to be close and we’d have to pull out all of the stops, and we really have.
“[It was] a very perfect lap, a solid lap and so I managed to chip away at it from session to session [with] no major issues but the last lap was my best lap, which is always the plan [but] sometimes it’s in another session.
“I’m very happy, super grateful for the huge efforts the team has put in to keep us in the fight. It’s more exciting than ever for me because we’re really fighting these guys [Ferrari]. It’s amazing and I think that’s what racing is all about.”
Hamilton's time was 4.1 secs faster than the 2015 pole position time and a different driver was fastest in each of the three sectors, showing how much more open it is at the moment.
Rain is forecast for tomorrow morning, so the big question mark is whether it will be wet at the start pot the race. There is some concern about aquaplaning on the full wet tyres and if it is that wet then Ferrari has more data than the other teams having conducted the bulk of the wet tyre testing for Pirelli over the winter. It will come down to fine margins again between Vettel and Hamilton, with Bottas also a factor.
Bottas, who had trailed Hamilton by 3/10ths all weekend, did a good job to raise his game in Q3, showing some encouraging signs for the future.
He improved on his final lap but could not take his first ever front row start for Mercedes as Vettel, who won from second on the grid in Australia, was able to find enough time in the final sector on his last lap to steal second place.
Kimi Raikkonen was unable to join the battle at the front and will start fourth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams’ Felipe Massa. The Red Bull looked better on long runs on Saturday than in qualifying spec.
Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg produced his best qualifying effort so far for his new team and will start seventh and he too looked very strong in long runs so should be on for a good result on Sunday. Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat qualified eighth and ninth for Force India and Toro Rosso respectively, Kvyat out qualifying team mate Sainz on this occasion.
Lance Stroll rounded out the top ten in the second Williams, which is the best qualifying result of his fledgling F1 career and the first time the Canadian rookie has made it through to Q3.
Carlos Sainz could not improve on his final lap in Q2 and will start 11th in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso, who had claimed he was pushing “like an animal” to get through to the second segment for McLaren.
Marcus Ericsson finished 14th for Sauber, while his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi qualified 15th and made it through to Q2 in just his second F1 qualifying session, but the Italian driver, who is replacing Pascal Wehrlein at the Swiss team for the second successive event, did not take part in the second part of the session as he crashed at the very end of Q1.
The 2016 GP2 runner up lost the rear of his car as he ran across the kerb at the exit of the final corner and speared into the wall on the inside of the circuit, heavily damaging the C36, which stopped some of the other drivers from improving their times as the yellow flags came out.
Stoffel Vandoorne had completed his final lap for McLaren before the incident but he could only set the 16th fastest time, while Romain Grosjean, who spun in a similar manner and place to Giovinazzi early in Q1 but did not crash, was one of the drivers caught out by the wreckage of the Sauber, which was strewn across the pitstraight.
Jolyon Palmer ended up 18th in the second Renault, one place ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver made a shock exit in Q1 after complaining that “something is not right with the engine” while he tried to set a competitive time.
Red Bull brought him into the pits and suggested he change engine modes if the software problem reoccurred when he went back out, but Verstappen could only set the 19th fastest time and could not then improve after Giovinazzi’s crash.
Verstappen will share the back row of the grid with his former FIA European Formula 3 rival, Esteban Ocon, who qualified 20th and last for Force India.
Palmer and Grosjean were investigated after qualifying for making improvements while the yellow flags were out for the Giovinazzi incident and both were docked five grid slots and handed three penalty points on their licences.
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.678s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.864s +0.186s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.865s +0.187s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m32.140s +0.462s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m33.033s +1.355s
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1m33.507s +1.829s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m33.580s +1.902s
8 Sergio Perez Force India 1m33.706s +2.028s
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m33.719s +2.041s
10 Lance Stroll Williams 1m34.220s +2.542s
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1m34.150s +2.472s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1m34.164s +2.486s
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1m34.372s +2.694s
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m35.046s +3.368s
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber No time set in Q2
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m35.023s +3.345s
17 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1m35.223s +3.545s
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m35.279s +3.601s
19 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m35.433s +3.755s
20 Esteban Ocon Force India 1m35.496s +3.818sWhat did you make of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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