Hamilton beats Vettel to pole in Chinese Grand Prix

By BBC

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won a tight fight with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take pole position for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton beat Vettel by 0.186 seconds for his second pole in two races, while the German edged the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas by 0.001secs.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen made it the same top four on the grid as at the season-opening race in Australia.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth but 1.355secs off the pace.

The Australian’s team-mate Max Verstappen was 19th after an engine problem.

China has underlined the impression created at the Australian Grand Prix that Mercedes and Ferrari are incredibly closely matched at the start of a season where huge regulation change has produced faster and more demanding cars.

And as in Melbourne, it was Briton Hamilton who made the difference, pulling out the stops when it mattered in the final qualifying session as it appeared Ferrari might have the edge.

Vettel was fastest in final practice and in the first part of qualifying, and Raikkonen of Finland topped the second session.

But 32-year-old Hamilton produced the first lap under one minute 32 seconds all weekend at the start of the top 10 shootout, beating Vettel by 0.184secs despite a slide at Turn 11.

Hamilton and Vettel both lowered their times by a little over 0.2secs on their final runs and the Mercedes man kept the advantage.

It was Hamilton’s sixth pole in a row – dating back to last year’s US Grand Prix – and his sixth in China, where his record of four wins is better than any other driver.

However, he will surely know he has his work cut out to beat Ferrari in the race after Vettel’s impressive victory in Australia two weeks ago.

The race could well be wet, with overnight rain predicted and cooler temperatures than qualifying, which was dry and bright.

Governing body the FIA has taken steps to ensure the cars can run after farcical scenes on Friday, when practice was badly disrupted because the medical helicopter could not operate.

A wet race would be a complete unknown for the drivers – not only did they get hardly any running on Friday but they have not driven these new cars in the wet before this weekend, and Pirelli has designed new wet tyres for this season after complaints the previous ones were not effective enough.

 

  

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