Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
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Sebastian Vettel impressed with Max Verstappen's swift apology after China clash

Sebastian Vettel impressed with Max Verstappen's swift apology after China clash

Hamilton dominated practice here yesterday, but the Mercedes cars had no answer to Ferrari in qualifying with Sebastian Vettel leading a front-row lockout ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen for the second weekend in succession.

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.

Raikkonen, 38, who was last on pole in Monaco previous year, lost out by just 0.087s, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas a staggering half a second off the pace in third as the reigning world champions struggled to get the ultrasoft tyre to work.

Since Hamilton took pole position for the season-opening Australian GP, Ferrari have held a clear single-lap pace advantage over the world champions. Kimi Raikkonen, who lost 15-5 a year ago, out-paced the German at the season-opening shootout in Australia and looked to have done so again in Bahrain before Vettel grabbed pole.

Verstappen was pushing through the field after Red Bull had pitted both its drivers for fresh soft tyres during a mid-race safety vehicle, a strategy that his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo converted to victory.

Asked if the positives of the Red Bull win are that he could consider himself part of a title fight, Verstappen replied: "Well, if I keep going like this, of course not!"

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

"Thank you guys, great qualifying, great auto", said Vettel, who also started from pole in Bahrain last weekend, over the team radio. I don't think necessarily I need to be less aggressive or anything because it's nothing to do with being overly aggressive but maybe wanting too much.

"I'm thankful for a couple of incidents that happened ahead today, kept us kind of in the battle".

Grosjean gives Haas their first ever Q3 appearance in China.

Lewis Hamilton was outqualified by his teammate for the second time in a row.

"So I knew that I had a little bit more and obviously in the last lap I got it all together and [was] very happy that when I crossed the line I was looking up to see the screen and I saw something green, which is usually good, and a little bit of purple".

Lance Stroll in P18 led the Sauber drivers, with Charles Leclerc, who nearly crashed his auto when he ran wide out of the last corner before his final lap, heading Marcus Ericsson by half a second.

"I could see he was struggling on the tyres and tried to brake late in the corners", said the Red Bull driver. Despite a management reshuffle and an emergency debrief following a lack of pace in Bahrain, both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne once again failed to progress to the top-10 qualifying shootout, lining up 13th and 14th on the grid. The auto doesn't feel much different so I think they have just turned it up. "They're the quickest on the straights too, so overtaking will be tough".

Force India will be delighted as their experienced driver Sergio Perez qualified P8.

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