Vettel takes pole in China, and Ferrari looks like it's back

Lewis Hamilton

Kimi Raikkonen says his final effort of Q3 in China was error-free despite missing out on pole position to Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel, victor of this season'so launching two races, completed eighth.

Lewis Hamilton's hard start to the 2018 F1 season continued during qualification for the Chinese Grand Prix as he ended up fourth on the grid.

But the Briton, like Vettel a four-times champion, has won in Shanghai an unprecedented five times and is determined to claw back at least some of that deficit on Sunday.

On softer and fresher tyres after Red Bull made a strategic call to pit both its cars during the safety auto period, Verstappen was closing in on Vettel for the final podium place.

Mercedes were expected to dominate the 2018 Formula 1 season after showing ominous pace during the pre-season tests in Barcelona, and Red Bull were considered their closest challengers, while talks were about Ferrari having taken a step back since last season.

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Vettel had led the race's first stint before losing out to Valtteri Bottas in the pitstop sequence.

"We had a bit of tailwind the whole race and after 41 laps you know that it's tricky to stop the auto there. To have that much of a gap (over Mercedes), it is a surprise".

"I tried to defend but ultimately, with the better tyres, he could really brake quite a lot later and got inside". No driver has won the opening three rounds and not gone on to take the title. When Lewis arrives at Shanghai airport in Pudong and goes into the main arrival hall, it's like the Beatles are arriving!

The two Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr were in seventh and ninth respectively, with the Force India of Sergio Pérez in eighth and Romain Grosjean's Haas in 10th. "They're the quickest on the straights too, so overtaking will be tough".

Red Bull Racing's drivers set only one lap each on the ultrasoft tyres, which left them vulnerable to improvements from the midfield drivers on the final runs. The vehicle felt ok but I don't have an answer for it. He qualified ahead of the Australian at his home race, while he was on course to do so again in Bahrain but crashed his RB14 at the end of Q1. The McLaren twins piloted by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were up next in 13th and 14th place respectively after being eliminated on Q2. I knew I had a little bit more and obviously in the last lap I got it all together.

F1's tight midfield battle is nearly as engrossing as the battle at the head of the field given the quality of drivers in teams like Haas-Ferrari, Renault F1, McLaren-Renault, Force India-Mercedes and Toro Rosso-Honda and how close they are to each other.

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