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Vettel on police in China as Hamilton struggles

15 April 2018

Hamilton, who has more wins in Shanghai than anyone else with five, was more than a half-second off Vettel's pace, and admitted he couldn't explain why.

"Now we need to work hard to understand why we have been struggling and start the climb back to the front of the field".

Sebastian Vettel has sensationally snatched pole from Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in a thrilling end to qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix today (Apr 14). I was beating myself up but I knew if I had a better lap I could do it'.

"We thought coming to today that we would be fighting for pole position but it was out of reach", Bottas said. "The vehicle was fantastic and just kept getting better".

"To have that much of a gap is a bit of a surprise", Vettel said.

Ferrari and Mercedes qualified on the soft tyre, so can attempt a one-stop race using the medium tyre, while Red Bull will probably have to go with two stops, with ultra/ultra/soft the most likely choice, according to Pirelli's own analysis. Both drivers gave each other a tow on the long back straight, but it wasn't enough to haul them into Q2. It's not what you want and it's easy to say afterwards "I should have waited".

It was left to Valtteri Bottas, therefore, to lead Mercedes' challenge.

"They (Ferrari) have been really strong already in the morning, but qualifying performance, they put one on top and we have something to think about", said the Austrian.

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took the next two grid spots, with the team doing well to get Ricciardo's auto ready after an engine blow-out in final practice.

Max Verstappen will start from the No. 5 spot and teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the sixth position. The Finn was faster than Hamilton but his best time was set on the soft tyre - he failed to improve on the ultra-soft, which ought to be the quickest. The team were slowest of all in Bahrain a week ago, but the Russian rookie was 10th quickest, splitting the Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

But it was a pretty miserable qualifying for "F1 Team GB", with the McLarens of Alonso and Vandoorne starting in 13th and 14th, and the Williams of Sirotkin and Stroll a miserable 16th and 18th.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon are also level, with the Frenchman making up for his Melbourne deficit in the desert by making Q3 for a Force India team who have struggled to meet expectations.

The two Red Bulls were both armed with fresh tyres, Verstappen's advantage such that he was still rapidly closing on Vettel despite his earlier off-track moment.