Bottas on pole in Mercedes one-two for landmark Chinese GP

Sebastian Vettel beat Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc to fourth by 0.017s to take third.

Mercedes has a front row lock out in China, with Valtteri Bottas on pole.   -  Getty Images

Valtteri Bottas pipped Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the milestone Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday in a dominant Mercedes front-row lockout.

Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Mercedes' arch-rival Ferrari for the race in Shanghai, the 1,000th race in Formula One.

Bottas, who leads the world championship and is one point ahead of title-holder Hamilton after two races, scorched to a best time of one minute 31.547 seconds.

That was just 0.023 secs ahead of Hamilton, the Briton who struggled with his Mercedes in practice and has voiced concern about Ferrari's superior straight-line speed.

“The car has been really good this weekend and Lewis also improved a lot in qualifying, it was super close,” said the flying Finn Bottas, who is beginning to climb out of the shadow of his more famous teammate.

Vettel, the four-time world champion who has been in the spotlight after a series of unforced errors stretching back to last season, was 0.301secs off Bottas.

The German this time got the better of his decade-younger Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, who is fourth on the grid and has failed to so far to match his performance last time out in Bahrain.

Fifth was Red Bull's Max Verstappen and sixth his team-mate Pierre Gasly. The young Dutchman Verstappen was infuriated after traffic prevented him from clocking a final, flying lap, and made his anger clear in an expletive-filled message over his radio.

Seventh and eighth were the Renault duo of Daniel Ricciardo — last year's victor in China — and Nico Hulkenberg.

Bottas though is the man in form, going fastest in the last two practice sessions after Vettel topped the times in first practice. Bottas had also gone quickest in Q1, but five-time world champion Hamilton was marginally faster in Q2.

“Valtteri's been stellar all weekend... There's more time left on the table, but I'll try and get it tomorrow,” said Hamilton, who snatched victory in Bahrain after Leclerc's Ferrari failed.

Bottas took a clear victory in the season-opening race in Melbourne and grabbed a bonus point for the fastest lap to take the edge in the early standings.

A notable casualty in Q2 was former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, the Alfa Romeo veteran who is a crowd favourite in China.

Day to forget for Albon

Earlier, Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon lost control and smashed at high speed towards the end of final practice, so did not take part in qualifying.

The 23-year-old rookie climbed gingerly out of his wrecked car, but only after a huge scare that drew gasps from the crowd in Shanghai.

The Thai-Briton, who is in his first season in F1, careened into a wall as he entered the straight with less than 10 minutes left of third and final practice.

His car was badly mangled and there was a frantic call from engineers asking if he was okay. He was later given the all-clear but missed qualifying because his ruined car could not be fixed in time.

Albon said that he had been “a bit too greedy”.

“I was obviously pushing, trying to find the limits, but it should have been in qualifying not FP3 (third practice),” he said.

Sunday's race begins at 0610 GMT.

 

 

 

Chinese Formula One Grand Prix qualifying times

Q3

1. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes 1:31.547

2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:31.570

3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:31.848

4. Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari 1:31.865,

5. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:32.089

6. Pierre Gasly (FRA) Red Bull 1:32.930

7. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault 1:32.958

8. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault 1:32.962

 

Q2

1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:31.637 (Q)

2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes 1:31.728 (Q)

3. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:32.232 (Q)

4. Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari 1:32.324 (Q)

5. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:32.369 (Q)

6. Pierre Gasly (FRA) Red Bull 1:32.948 (Q)

7. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault 1:32.968 (Q)

8. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas 1:33.150 (Q)

9. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1:33.156 (Q)

10. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault 1:33.214 (Q)

11. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 1:33.236

12. Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point 1:33.299

13. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:33.419

14. Carlos Sainz (ESP) McLaren 1:33.523

15. Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren 1:33.967

 

Q1

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes 1:32.658 (Q)

2. Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari 1:32.712 (Q)

3. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:33.115 (Q)

4. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1:33.274 (Q)

5. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1:33.557 (Q)

6. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault 1:33.644 (Q)

7. Carlos Sainz (ESP) McLaren 1:33.686 (Q)

8. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault 1:33.709 (Q)

9. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1:33.752 (Q)

10. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 1:33.783 (Q)

11. Pierre Gasly (FRA) Red Bull 1:33.863 (Q)

12. Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point 1:34.026 (Q)

13. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas 1:34.036 (Q)

14. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:34.125 (Q)

15. Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren 1:34.148 (Q)

16. Lance Stroll (CAN) Racing Point 1:34.292

17. George Russell (GBR) Williams 1:35.253

18. Robert Kubica (POL) Williams 1:35.281

19. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA) Alfa Romeo Racing 0.000

20. Alexander Albon (THA) Toro Rosso 0.000