Chinese Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel on pole with track record
Vettel currently holds a 17-point lead in the overall standings over Hamilton after having won the opening two races of the season
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel reacts after qualifying in pole position for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 14, 2018. Pic/AFP
Sebastian Vettel led Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari front-row lockout as the Italian team dominated yesterday's qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix. The championship leader lapped the 5.4-kilometer long Shanghai International Circuit in one minute, 31.095 seconds - a new track record - to pip Raikkonen by a mere 0.087 seconds.
His title rival Lewis Hamilton could do no better fourth, with the Briton who had struggled throughout the session, aborting his final flying lap to end up behind even Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Saturday's pole was 52nd of Vettel's career and fourth in China. It was also only Ferrari's second in Shanghai after Rubens Barrichello started the inaugural Chinese race from the front in 2004.
The Italian glamour team last won in China in 2013. “Thank you guys, great qualifying, great car,” said Vettel, who also started the last race in Bahrain from pole, over the team radio. “Really enjoyed that one, whoo!” Raikkonen locked out the front row for Ferrari for the second time in succession after also qualifying second a week ago in Bahrain.
The Finn had led the timesheets as the drivers embarked on their final flying laps and appeared set to clinch pole position after going fastest in the opening two sectors of the lap. But Vettel, who made a couple of errors on his first flier, pulled out just enough in the end to deny the 38-year-old what would have been his first pole since last year's Monaco Grand Prix.
Vettel currently holds a 17-point lead in the overall standings over Hamilton after having won the opening two races of the season. The Briton, second in Australia and third in Bahrain, had gone into the weekend determined to claw back at least some of his deficit to the German and deny him a hat-trick of season-opening wins. The 33-year-old, like Vettel a four-times champion, has taken an unprecedented five wins in Shanghai.
But his hopes of chalking up a sixth to extend Mercedes run of Shanghai success to seven straight victories on Sunday look bleak with the Briton 0.580 seconds off Vettel's pace. Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualified fifth ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who made it out on track just in time, with the former champions working a miracle to change his engine after it blew up in the final practice session on Saturday morning.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Renault ahead of Force India's Sergio Perez. Carlos Sainz in the other Renault was ninth with Romain Grosjean rounding out the top-ten for Haas