f1chronicle-2019 Chinese Grand Prix, Friday - Wolfgang Wilhelm
Image - Wolfgang Wilhelm

Valtteri Bottas will start the Chinese Grand Prix on pole position after fending off teammate Lewis Hamilton as both Mercedes out-paced the Ferraris.

The Finn was the quickest driver all week but was pushed to the limit by Hamilton who got to within 0.023 of his colleague’s benchmark time. Meanwhile, Ferrari were left scratching their heads as the pace advantage they enjoyed in Bahrain evaporated.

Sebastian Vettel clocked the third fastest time but was three-tenths off the pace. Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was just 0.017 secs behind.

The fifth and sixth grid places will be occupied by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, respectively. However, Verstappen was left frustrated when traffic prevented him from making a final attempt to get amongst the front runners.

Bottas Keeps Cool

Bottas remained calm under pressure as Hamilton provided the heat, clocking to within seven-thousandths of a second of the Finn’s first lap time. But it was Hamilton who erred in the final sector of his crucial run while Bottas improved on his time to become the third different pole sitter in the opening three races of 2019.

Despite his achievement, the Mercedes man claimed he struggled to find the perfect lap in Q3 but admitted it was “good enough.” Hamilton praised his teammate for being “stellar all weekend.”

“It feels good to be on pole. I think it’s going to be a very close race tomorrow, so it’s a good thing to start from the front. It’s been a strong weekend for us so far and it was nice to continue that way in the first session that counted. Because in the end when you go into Qualifying it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a good weekend up to that point; the only thing that counts is if you can deliver a good lap. I’m happy I was able to do that today. I think we were still a little bit behind on the straights compared to Ferrari, but we were stronger in the corners and ultimately gained more than we lost to them on the straights. It will be a tight race tomorrow and we will need a strong race pace and the right strategy to win. I’ll also need a good start in order to keep the lead as I’m sure both Lewis and the Ferraris will be pushing. We’ve been strong all weekend long so we need to continue to perform at this level to get the job done tomorrow,” said Bottas.

With Ferrari lacking one-lap pace, the question now is can they challenge in the race? Vettel seemed optimistic after the session but he may have been putting on a brave face after a disappointing day.

Renault Finding their Way

It was a great day for Renault, who took both cars to Q3 and then locked out the fourth row with Daniel Ricciardo bettering teammate Nico Hulkenberg by the narrowest margin. The Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean made up the top 10.

After a bright start to the season, McLaren were brought crashing back to earth as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris posted the 14th and 15th fastest times in Q2.

The failure of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon to run means that Williams will not start from the back of the grid for the first time this season, with rookie George Russell claiming 17th place after out-pacing teammate Robert Kubica for the third race in a row.

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