Valtteri Bottas is out to prove that he deserves to maintain his mantle of championship leader after claiming a definitive pole position for Sunday’s Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The Finn, who leads the World Championship standings by one point over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, edged out the Briton by just 0.023 seconds to claim the seventh pole of his F1 career and his first at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Having won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and finished second to Hamilton next time out in Bahrain, Bottas was in no mood to disappear into his teammate’s shadow. He’s been quick here all weekend, finishing fastest of all FP2 and FP3, and when it came down to qualifying he rose to Hamilton’s challenge after the reigning World Champion lapped just 0.007 seconds shy at the end of their first runs.
On their second runs, Bottas pulled out an ever quicker time of 1:31. 547 to snatch pole position. Hamilton had rallied with his own fastest time, but fell barely two-hundredths of a second short in the final reckoning.
The final Q3 session results proved to be a Noah’s Ark affair, with Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, Renault and the Haas F1 Team locking out the second through fifth rows of the starting grid respectively.
The Ferraris were the quickest cars in a straight line but couldn’t match the Silver Arrows through the back-to-back sweeps that are the hallmark of the Shanghai circuit’s second sector. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc lapped just three-tenths of a second slower in the final results, but both drivers are upbeat about the SF90’s pace in race trim.
Max Verstappen secured fifth on the grid for Red Bull Racing, with teammate Pierre Gasly – making his first Q3 appearance since joining the team at the start of the year – sixth-fastest, however the Frenchman was almost a second off Verstappen’s quickest time. Both drivers only completed one proper run in Q3 after a miscalculation by the team saw them send their drivers out too late to cross the finish line in time to start a final flying lap.
The Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo showed the Enstone team’s strong pace would carry through into qualifying, claiming seventh and eighth respectively. The two Haas Ferraris of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean made it into Q3, but – like Red Bull Racing – neither car crossed the start/finish line in time to attempt a flying lap.
McLaren’s solid practice pace deserted it in qualifying, with both Renault-powered cars eliminated in Q2 – Carlos Sainz Jr. was fourteenth ahead of rookie teammate Lando Norris. Ahead of them on the grid are Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen
Kvyat’s teammate Alexander Albon was unable to take part in qualifying after comprehensively wrecking his STR14 in FP3 and will start from the back of the grid, alongside the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi who failed to set a time in Q1 thanks to a suspected MGU-H failure.
Their absence meant just one driver would be joining the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica in being eliminated early, with the unfortunate honour going to Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
|FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:31.547|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:31.570||+ 0.023|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:31.848||+ 0.301|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:31.865||+ 0.318|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:32.089||+ 0.542|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:32.930||+ 1.383|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:32.958||+ 1.411|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:32.962||+ 1.415|
|9.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||no time|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||no time|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:33.236||+ 1.599|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:33.299||+ 1.662|
|13.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:33.419||+ 1.782|
|14.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:33.523||+ 1.886|
|15.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:33.967||+ 2.330|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:34.292||+ 1.634|
|17.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:35.253||+ 2.595|
|18.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:35.281||+ 2.623|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|DNQ.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||no time|
|DNQ.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:31.637 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:32.658 posted by Valtteri Bottas
Images via Mercedes-AMG F1 Team