Lewis Hamilton has stretched his unbeaten run of pole positions to six on the trot after narrowly edging Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix.

It was also the Englishman’s sixth pole position at the Shanghai International Circuit, coming off the fastest ever qualifying time at the 5.4-kilometre circuit.

Having set the pace in Saturday’s earlier practice session, Vettel was consigned to second place on the grid once again. The Ferrari driver denied Mercedes a front-row lockout by edging Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas by just one-thousandth of a second. Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen qualified fourth-fastest.

The Ferrari drivers shared the pacesetting honours in the first two knockout phases of qualifying. Vettel and Räikkönen had the pace to sail into Q2 on just a single Soft-compound run – the German going quickest with a 1:33.078 on his sole flying lap – while the rest of the field felt forced to run on the quicker Super Soft tyres.

The end of the first elimination session saw a number of surprise results, particularly with who didn’t make it through to Q2. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen suffered an engine software malfunction that robbed his RB13 of crucial straight-line speed, consigning the Dutch teenager to a lowly 19th on the timesheets.

Also suffering a lack of power – albeit more expected – was McLaren rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, who not surprisingly found his MCL32 wanting on this power-dependent circuit. He qualified 16th-fastest, while teammate Fernando Alonso drove “like an animal” and miraculously made it through to Q2.

Both Sauber drivers made it through to Q2, although that was in no small part down to a final-lap accident for the team’s stand-in driver Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian rookie crashed heavily as he exited the final corner on his final flying lap, and the double waved yellow flags were brought out to ensure a number of his rivals could not improve on their times.

The chief victims were Haas’ Romain Grosjean (17th), Renault’s Jolyon Palmer (18th) and Force India’s Esteban Ocon (20th), who were all were forced to slow through the final sector. Grosjean and Palmer were subsequently deemed not to have slowed sufficiently in a post-qualifying investigation, with the FIA Stewards panel handing each driver a five-place grid penalty for their troubles.

For Grosjean, the qualifying session was a complete disaster, with the Frenchman having earlier spun at the same corner and punctured his tyres in his efforts to keep his Haas VF-17 off the barriers.

The second phase of qualifying was delayed due to the barrier repairs required after Giovinazzi’s crash, and it produced far less drama once it was underway. This time Räikkönen led the charge, clocking a new lap record with a 1:32.181 effort on Super Soft tyres.

Those eliminated from Q2 included Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, McLaren’s Alonso and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and the sidelined Giovinazzi.

The final session saw Hamilton take charge, with the Englishman quickest over both of his runs to claim pole position. In doing so, he became the first driver since Ayrton Senna to twice claim six consecutive pole positions – that being said, the Brazilian achieved the feat no less than four times in his illustrious career.

Vettel edged out Bottas by just one-thousandth of a second in the final reckoning, while Räikkönen faded to fourth place.

Behind the top-four, there was a sizable gap to fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull Racing entry. The Australian was followed on the time sheets by Williams’ Felipe Massa, Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, Force India’s Sergio Pérez and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.

Williams rookie Lance Stroll made it into Q3 for the first time in just his second Grand Prix appearance. The Canadian youngster was a blistering fifth-fastest in Q1, but was unable to match his earlier pace over the remaining sessions.

Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, run over 56 laps, starts at 14:00 local time (GMT +8).

Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap Tyre
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:31.678 Pirelli Super Soft
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:31.864 + 0.186 Pirelli Super Soft
3. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:31.865 + 0.187 Pirelli Super Soft
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:32.840 + 0.462 Pirelli Super Soft
5. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:33.033 + 1.355 Pirelli Super Soft
6. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:33.507 + 1.829 Pirelli Super Soft
7. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:33.580 + 1.902 Pirelli Super Soft
8. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:33.706 + 2.028 Pirelli Super Soft
9. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:33.719 + 2.041 Pirelli Super Soft
10. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:34.220 + 2.542 Pirelli Super Soft
Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap** Tyre
11. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:34.150 + 1.969 Pirelli Super Soft
12. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:34.164 + 1.983 Pirelli Super Soft
13. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:34.372 + 2.191 Pirelli Super Soft
14. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:35.046 + 2.865 Pirelli Super Soft
15. Antonio Giovinazzi it Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 no time
Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap* Tyre
16. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:35.023 + 1.945 Pirelli Super Soft
17. Romain Grosjean^ fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:35.223 + 2.145 Pirelli Super Soft
18. Jolyon Palmer^ Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:35.279 + 2.201 Pirelli Super Soft
19. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:35.433 + 2.355 Pirelli Super Soft
20. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:35.496 + 2.418 Pirelli Super Soft

* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:33.078 posted by Sebastian Vettel
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:32.181 posted by Kimi Räikkönen

^Post-Qualifying Penalties:

  • Romain Grosjean – who provisionally qualified 17th-fastest – was awarded a five-place grid penalty for failing to sufficiently slow down through a yellow-flag zone.
  • Jolyon Palmer – who provisionally qualified 18th-fastest – was awarded a five-place grid penalty for failing to sufficiently slow down through a yellow-flag zone.

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.