Lewis Hamilton became only the 2nd driver in Formula One to take six consecutive pole positions.
The Briton matched the record by his hero Ayrton Senna to stretch his impressive run of pole positions. His time of 1:31.678s also ensured it was his sixth pole position in China.
The Mercedes racer turned it on when he needed to, after Ferrari set the pace in the opening sessions, but when it came to the ultimate fastest lap, Hamilton edged his machine ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
Vettel fell just two-tenths short of Hamilton, but pipped the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas by one-thousandth of-a-second to secure another Mercedes-Ferrari front row. The German admitted he lost time in his first run when he was affected by a gust of wind in turn twelve. Kimi Raikkonen took 4th in the other Ferrari, as he felt he lost time due to slippiness around the rear.
The Ferrari’s were the only team to run with just softs in the opening qualifing session, whereas all other eighteen competitors set times on the Pirelli super-softs, allowing the Scuderia to save a set of super-softs for the race.
Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Felipe Massa (Williams) secured the third row, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (Renault, 7th) and Sergio Perez (Force India, 8th); the latter of whom only recorded a single Q3 run.
Daniil Kvyat claimed 9th in his Toro Rosso, with the top ten completed by Lance Stroll (Williams). Stroll also only completed a single run in Q3, with the Canadian teen appearing more at home with the FW40 this weekend.
Carlos Sainz missed out on Q3 by just six-hundredths, when a late improvement by Perez dropped him out of the top ten. The Toro Rosso man’s best lap was some 1.9s down on the fastest Q2 lap by Raikkonen and only one-tenth off of teammate Kvyat.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas) will partner Sainz on the sixth row, after his last effort was not quite quick enough, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso could only manage 13th overall, despite driving “like an animal”.
Marcus Ericsson was again the quickest of the two Sauber’s, although this was no real contest as he was only Sauber to set a time in Q2. The first qualifying session was ended prematurely when Giovinazzi crashed exiting the final corner. The Italian was on his final lap and was due to set a quicker lap when he ran over the kerb on teh approach to teh start/finish straight, pitchging the Sauber racer hard into the barrier. As Giovinazzi had done enough to qualify for Q2, the Italian’s absense from the rest of qualifying meant he would do no better than 15th.
Giovinazzi’s crash nullified last moment efforts for Stoffel Vandoorne (Mclaren, 16th), Romain Grosjean (Haas, 17th), Jolyon Palmer (Renault, 18th), Max Verstappen (Red bull, 19th) and Esteban Ocon (Force India, 20th).
Grosjean had spun earlier in the session, when he also looped it around exiting the final corner, destroying his first set of tyres. It was especially disappointing for Verstappen, who not only lost time in the final third of Q1 when he was pulled in for a weight check, but was then slowed on his final run due to an engine software issue. Ocon was course to easily progress into Q2, when the session was ended. Both Grosjean and Palmer are also under investigation for not slowing enough under yellows in the final sector.