Lewis Hamilton cast doubt on his Mercedes team's Chinese Grand Prix chances today, after Sebastian Vettel led a Ferrari front-row lockout in qualifying yesterday with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in second.
Raikkonen, 38, who was last on pole in Monaco past 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.
Verstappen spun after damaging his auto in the opening race in Australia and then retired after contact with Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, and after a third disrupted race says he will try and learn from the hard start to the season.
Vettel said even he was surprised at the gap in qualifying times between Ferrari and Mercedes, who have won five of the last six Shanghai races.
Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo added, "Ferrari has had really good pace all weekend and I can't say honestly now that we're going to have their pace tomorrow, but Mercedes definitely look within reach".
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"They (Ferrari) have been really strong already in the morning, but qualifying performance, they put one on top and we have something to think about", said the Austrian. "I don't think so", said Verstappen.
"We didn't really do much on the vehicle, I didn't have to fight to find [the right set-up]".
Reflecting on Verstappen's attempted he said, "I didn't see him until very late so I left him a little bit of room".
Kevin Magnussen was seventh for the US -owned Haas team ahead of the other Renault of Spaniard Carlos Sainz. We were quicker in the last race (in Bahrain) but they (Ferrari) were able to hold on. Bottas withstood late pressure from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to finish second but after the race his thoughts were on an opportunity lost. 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.
Haas's Romain Grosjean qualified 10th, just 0.036 seconds behind Sainz.
As for Vettel, the German was surprisingly calm in the post-race interviews.
Vettel, who finished second in Shanghai past year, has five career podium finishes at this race but his only win came all the way back in 2009, so don't be surprised if Hamilton and Mercedes get back to their winning ways this weekend. They were just too fast on the fresh tyres, so I didn't want to compromise my race to the guys behind.