SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14: Top three qualifiers Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP wave to the crowd in parc ferme during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari snatched pole position from his teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the Qualifying session of the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai. Valtteri Bottas, at P3, edged ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton in fourth position. Max Verstappen rounded out the top-five in the final shootout.

Vettel Snatches Pole from Raikkonen Once Again

Surprise for Gasly in Q1

The qualifying session at Shanghai started in cool conditions with the air temperature at 12 degrees C and track temperatures at 15 degrees C. All the top teams were comfortably through to Q2, while the usual suspects – Sauber and Williams – found themselves in the drop zone.

Among the teammates, Sergey Sirotkin out-qualified Lance Stroll, while Charles Leclerc outpaced Marcus Ericsson. But the big surprise of the session was the Toro Roso of Pierre Gasly. The star of the Bahrain GP could not manage to get out of Q3 and was out-qualified by his teammate Brendon Hartley.

The mechanics in the Red Bull garage were working frantically to prepare Daniel Ricciardo‘s car with an engine change after FP3. He finally managed to come out just in time to set a lap time to avoid being relegated to the back of the grid. Vettel topped Q1 with a time of 1:32.171s.

McLaren disappoint once again in Q2

The second qualifying session started with most teams using the soft Pirellis in their first runs. The McLaren team was expected to take a step up to the top-ten in the grid at Chinese GP. But there was disappointment in store for both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne who finished P13 and P14 respectively.

The others in the drop zone were Brendon Hartley and Esteban Ocon. Force India did well to qualify ahead of both McLaren and Torro Rosso. Sergio Perez even managed to scrape through to Q3 this time.

The other surprise was Kevin Magnussen of Haas being knocked out in this session. Magnussen has been fast since the season started. But this time his teammate Romain Grosjean managed to get into the top ten. Hamilton topped the Q2 session with a time of 1:31.914s.

Mercedes found wanting in Q3

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas tried hard but could not match the pace of the Ferraris in Q3. The cooler climes of Shanghai were expected to suit Mercedes more than Ferrari, but it didn’t happen on this Saturday.

The Ferrari in the hands of Kimi Raikkonen looked untouchable after the first runs on ultrasoft tyres when he clocked 1:31.200. But just when the session was about to end, Vettel pulled out a great third sector on his second run to break Raikkonen’s dream of a Shanghai pole.

Vettel’s final run of 1:31.095s was 0.087 seconds faster than that of Raikkonen. Both the Mercedes cars were almost half a second further back. Verstappen out-qualified Ricciardo, while Hulkenberg out-qualified Sainz. Sergio Perez did well to split the Renaults at P8. Grosjean rounded out the top-ten.

Race day might be tense

A tense race day awaits the reigning champions Mercedes as they try to beat Ferrari on a circuit they were expected to have a cakewalk on. Even after having a supposedly faster car, they have been beaten in the opening two Grands Prix. Will Vettel get a hat-trick of wins or will Hamilton strike back? It will be an interesting race on Sunday.

The full time-sheet from Chinese GP Qualifying sessions:

1 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:32.171 1:32.385 1:31.095 15
2 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:32.474 1:32.286 1:31.182 17
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:32.921 1:32.063 1:31.625 20
4 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:33.283 1:31.914 1:31.675 17
5 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:32.932 1:32.809 1:31.796 12
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:33.877 1:32.688 1:31.948 12
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:33.545 1:32.494 1:32.532 15
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:33.464 1:32.931 1:32.758 13
9 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:33.315 1:32.970 1:32.819 18
10 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:33.238 1:32.524 1:32.855 19
11 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:33.359 1:32.986 13
12 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:33.585 1:33.057 9
13 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:33.428 1:33.232 11
14 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:33.824 1:33.505 11
15 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.013 1:33.795 15
16 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:34.062 7
17 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.101 9
18 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:34.285 7
19 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:34.454 9
20 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:34.914 9

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