This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix is an historic race, as it will be the 1000th Grand Prix in the history of the sport.
The Shanghai International Circuit is a challenging 16-turn 3.387-mile (5.451 km) race track and it was a warm 21˚C for Qualifying.
The Mercedes team were once again in control and managed to lock out the front row of the grid with Valtteri Bottas claiming his seventh career pole position and first of this season with a time of 1:31:546. His team mate Lewis Hamilton will be alongside him in P2. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are on the second row of the grid in their Ferraris.
Afterwards, Valtteri Bottas commented: “It feels good to be on pole. I think it’s going to be a very close race tomorrow, so it’s a good thing to start from the front. It’s been a strong weekend for us so far and it was nice to continue that way in the first session that counted. Because in the end when you go into Qualifying it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a good weekend up to that point; the only thing that counts is if you can deliver a good lap. I’m happy I was able to do that today. I think we were still a little bit behind on the straights compared to Ferrari, but we were stronger in the corners and ultimately gained more than we lost to them on the straights. It will be a tight race tomorrow and we will need a strong race pace and the right strategy to win. I’ll also need a good start in order to keep the lead as I’m sure both Lewis and the Ferraris will be pushing. We’ve been strong all weekend long, so we need to continue to perform at this level to get the job done tomorrow.”
Lewis Hamilton said: “Fantastic job from the team, I’m really happy for us to lock out the front row. Valtteri did a great job, he was a bit quicker, but I was happy to get a decent couple of laps. I didn’t know where we would be, but in the end, we’ve shown a strong performance. I’ve struggled a lot this weekend up until Qualifying, I was battling with the balance, so I’m really happy with the direction it went for Qualifying; it was a bit late, but better late than never. I’ll try and pull a good start out tomorrow; tyre management and strategy will also be important. This is not a bad track to overtake, so it should be an interesting race. I’m sure there will be a few opportunities tomorrow and I will try to put myself in the best position to be able to fight.”
Ferrari put in a strong performance in today’s qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel taking P3 in a time of 1’31”848, whilst Charles Leclerc netted fourth in a time of 1’31”865.
Sebastian Vettel said afterwards, “We could have done a bit better today but probably not enough to really beat our rivals for pole. It could have been worse, but I am not entirely happy. We started off well, but then our competitors had more pace over the single lap in terms of pure performance. We should have a good car tomorrow though and hopefully we can show it throughout the whole 56 laps. It’s a long race and I expect it to be a very tight one too. Making the right strategy choices will be important; we must make the right call at the right time and see where that takes us. I am not sure everyone understands how many variables have to be taken into account. The top drivers are all starting on Medium tyres and we will see if that turns out to be the right choice. I believe anything can happen.”
Charles Leclerc commented, following his disappointment at the Bahrain Grand Prix, “I am annoyed with myself today. I made a mistake on the last lap and I really shouldn’t have done that. Overall, I think there are some positives, because in all three practice sessions I was struggling quite a lot with the setup, the confidence in the car and the driving. But then, before qualifying we introduced some changes, which meant I could drive better and set the lap times we were expecting. It was good but it is also disappointing not to extract all the potential from the car today. We knew our rivals would be competitive as they have been since the first session. The race tomorrow is going to be a bit more complicated than expected, as I haven’t done any long runs yesterday nor this morning because of the red flag so, I will be a bit in the dark. It will be tough, but I’ll push as much as possible and we can expect our opponents to be very strong.”
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
The Haas drivers struggled in Qualifying, with Keven Magnussen qualifying in 9th and Romain Grosjean just behind his team mate in 10th.
Team Principal, Guenther Steiner commented: “On the positive side we’ve had both cars in Q3 in the first three races to start the year. That’s a pretty strong showing. The last run, we didn’t make it to the start-finish line in time because everyone was bunching up. We didn’t make it, but if you don’t take risks, well – we wouldn’t have gained if we’d gone out first. We would have been ninth and 10th anyway. With our position in the garages, we were the last ones to get in the row. We didn’t make it, despite our forecast. In the end it’s not fantastic, but it’s not the end of the world. As I said, I think we’ve shown ourselves to be strong in qualifying by once again having both cars in Q3.”
Tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix starts at 14.10 local time.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man Behind The Wheel and Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Ferrari and Haas F1 Team