The Saturday in F1 Chinese GP saw a hectic run with the sprint and main race qualifying as Red Bull set the pace in both sessions.

The Saturday in F1 Chinese GP was hectic after the sprint race in the morning, followed by qualifying but the result was the same in both as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen not only won the race, but also took pole for Sunday’s main race.

The Dutchman started the sprint from fourth and passed Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to win by over 13s. He then took pole in a Red Bull 1-2 where Sergio Perez was second with the team retaining its dominance over their rivals.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was third as its qualifying pace helped them to be in the Top 3, where teammate Lance Stroll was knocked out in Q2 itself. The two McLaren drivers slotted in fourth and fifth despite not feeling well about their race pace.

They both felt good having qualified ahead of the Ferrari cars, who were downbeat about the situation. Charles Leclerc felt short on his qualifying position as he wanted to be inside the Top 3 but felt short which will need more work for him in the race.

Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, noted about his accident in Q2 and recovering from it. While the four teams made merry, it wasn’t all good for Mercedes where Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q1 after set-up changes hurt him, as George Russell ended up only eighth.

Verstappen: “It was a bit confusing in Q3 where on the first run I went slower than in Q2. It might have been the wind, because it’s very difficult to understand that anyway. Around here with the wind direction it’s very sensitive to the balance of the car. But yeah, then for the final run I didn’t really know what to expect, but you just push on and everything just came a bit together, the grip felt a little bit more normal and I managed to improve, that was very nice. I think overall, the whole of qualifying I was very happy with the car, it felt very well balanced as well, so of course naturally then you can push on and that was crucial to being on pole. It definitely gave you a bit more of an idea with the deg, what to look at, what to work on for tomorrow. Of course, the wind direction is going to change again tomorrow, so the balance of the car in some corners will be a bit different again, but I think if the car is even half as good as what it as in the Sprint I think we will be alright.”

Perez: “I didn’t have a good run in my first run of Q3, which really set me back. I don’t know what happened. Obviously tyres were a little bit cooler, but yeah, it was just a step worse. We were playing around with the front wing. So I felt like it just put us on the back foot for my final run. And then all of a sudden in the final run thing, the track was just getting quite a bit better and I managed to put a good lap together. And yeah, I think just all the way to that lap has been a very messy qualifying, starting from Q1. I nearly was knocked out and qualified 15th. I had traffic on my first attempt with a Williams and had to come back to the pits, so I was just out of position a lot of the time and unfortunately, you know, with a change of wind it was important to be out there at the right time to make sure that you get that progression, that learning from these new conditions. we did suffer a lot with a tyre deg, with rear deg especially. So yeah, just making sure that we were able to have a more stable platform was important. But obviously, that doesn’t come for free, you know, and then you’re making other compromises in different sort of corner speeds and yeah, I just couldn’t get a good read through the conditions. I think my first proper lap was seen in Q2, run two. And yeah, then run one in Q3 was quite far off. So it wasn’t the smoothest qualifying session out there. But it still is a good result for tomorrow.”

Alonso: “It was very good, but not perfect. I had a moment Turn 1 and 2. I lost the car. And actually, in Turn 3, I was just thinking if it was better to abort the lap and come in, or keep on going. And I said I will brake very late into 6, try to recover that time. I recovered one tenth and I said, ‘OK, I keep going’. I recovered another tenth in Turns 9 and 10. And I said, ‘OK, now let’s go for the final two corners’. And it was very much needed, because within two tenths there are like six cars, and we are leading that group of those two tenths, so happy with the lap, happy with qualifying. And these kind of laps and moments are very encouraging for the future. Happy for the team, proud of all of them. We never give up.

“We are not in a strong position yet, especially on race conditions, we are still maybe the fourth, fifth fastest team, but we still fighting to be better and better and today’s result shows that.  I expect a difficult race. I mean, we are slower than the Ferraris, slower than the McLarens and probably the Mercedes. We are qualifying them often and then in the race we just need to wait and see. When they come, how fast they come and how many laps we can defend those positions. But it happened so far in the first four races, so I guess this fifth race is going to be no different. So yeah, I expect a race that is going to be difficult for us. But you know, we can’t say sorry for being too fast in qualifying, so let’s take it. And then in in this morning, yeah, I received a penalty which obviously, I will not agree, but they have all the power to do what they think is is right and we have to accept it and move on.”

Hamilton: “I woulda, shoulda got through easy. It was my mistake. I just struggled I think to stop the car in Turn 14, it just kept locking. Maybe I needed one more lap. The car’s massively different – we changed a lot but I’m hoping tomorrow’s going to be a bit better. I hope it rains tomorrow now. The rain dance – I need everyone to do it.”

Sainz: “It was obviously not ideal to crash in Q2, but still managed to crash just in the right angle. “In the last moment I turned the wheel a bit to make sure that the crash was in the best possible angle and managed to keep the right angle there to not damage the rear suspension and the rear wing. From there I recovered well, I had decent confidence in the car and I could keep pushing flat out. “Unfortunately, still it throws you a bit off rhythm and it’s not an ideal quali, but I managed to put together some strong laps. It just seems like this weekend we’re not very strong as a team and it’s not a very good track for us. But the race is tomorrow and we can still recover. We’re going to try our best. I think McLaren is definitely the target… tomorrow with Fernando I think they are definitely a step faster than us in quali, as simple as that, they were both cars quicker than the Ferraris in quali. But over the race things change normally so we will try and get them back in the race.”

Leclerc: “We struggled a lot in the first sector, which I can have an idea of, and I don’t think it comes from tyre preparation that time. But we set up the car on my side mostly for the race tomorrow and I think it’s going to pay off tomorrow. However, we did not expect McLaren and Fernando to be able to jump us. I was happy to sacrifice being P3 behind the Red Bulls with a good car for the race, but now obviously we are starting P6 so it’s a bit further back than we would have liked. However, we have good race pace, good tyre management, and that gives me the confidence that we can come back to third tomorrow, but we need to get past quickly and hopefully there are no DRS trains. I mean, there was no special lap whatsoever like I like to do in qualifying, so I’m not yet at the level where I want to be, but I’m on the right path. As I said, it’s a matter of time. I don’t think it’s going to be long, already this weekend it’s been a better feeling, and next weekend I’m sure we’ll be all good.”

Norris: “Good, to be honest. I think to be ahead of two Ferraris is always a positive thing, to be behind two Red Bulls is not a surprise at all. They’re clearly extremely strong, like they showed in the [Sprint] race today – Red Bull are in another league here. But I think [it was] a positive day for us in terms of pace. It buys us a bit of leeway on the Ferraris, but more than likely they’ll be overtaking us tomorrow. I think we’re in a good position, I think our battle will be with the Aston Martin and probably with the Mercedes at some point. “We’ll see, but today I think was a good day. Even with what happened this morning, I think our pace was not bad comparing to Mercedes, comparing to Aston. We’re in a similar boat, just Red Bull are a mile ahead and Ferrari are another big chunk ahead of us.

“With everyone else I think we’re there or thereabouts, and [it] should be a good race. The Red Bulls will probably lap everyone multiple times. Ferrari I think will not be as quick as them, but they’ll be close or close enough. I think they’re out of our league, as soon as they had clean air this morning it was quite easy for them to pull away. So yeah, not expecting anything surprising. We said before the weekend we would struggle, I think we’ve done a better job than we thought in low-fuel, but definitely in high-fuel everything that we expect happens, and I think that’s why we struggled so much. I’m still looking forward to it, I think we can still have a good race, we can still fight for some good points and if we get lucky with some other things it can still be a good day.”

The Top 10 also had Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and Stake F1 Team’s Valtteri Bottas, who made the most of misery of Hamilton and Stroll. Both their teammates Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu were knocked out in Q1, with the local hero only missing Q2 by just.

It wasn’t plain for Visa Cash App RB’s Yuki Tsunoda who had another Q1 exit after sprint qualifying, as teammate Daniel Ricciardo beat him after getting the new chassis. It was a win-win for Alpine pair too making it in Q2, as Williams’s Logan Sargeant noted about his crash.

Hulkenberg: “We dropped down the field quite dramatically in the Sprint – there was nothing obvious, no damage on the car. In the pack, right after the start, I think we ruined our tyres over the first few laps. We were just driving in the dirty air of many cars – so we paid a big price for that. After that I hit degradation and just went backwards. Maybe we did a wrong turn on the set-up after yesterday going from FP1 into Sprint quali. We intended to make the car better, but it reacted in a strange and different way to what we expected in the Sprint. Then I was very happy with quali, it was very clean, not sure I could have asked for more in terms of execution and my laps. We remedied things from the Sprint, things were more in-line with what we expected – so I’m happy. I expect a tough race tomorrow, I think it will be a stretch for us, but I look forward to it.”

Bottas: “It’s been a good day, overall, and we can look forward to tomorrow to hopefully finish our weekend on this level. In the Sprint, earlier today, I had a good start but then got a bit unlucky when I got sandwiched in turn six on the opening lap, causing damage to the front wing endplate – which unfortunately made the rest of the race tricky to manage. Apart from that, we enjoyed good pace, as we could see with Zhou, who made it into the top ten – which is promising for the main race tomorrow. Qualifying was a different business; it was a straightforward job from our side, and everything went smoothly, allowing us to make it past the Q3 threshold for the first time this season. Overall, it’s been good to see our progress on track this weekend so far; we got pretty close to Nico in Q3, so we should be in for some fun tomorrow, and hopefully some action. I think we have a realistic chance to score points, so we’ll need to execute everything to perfection. As a plus, we are getting lots of support from the grandstands, which is surely a great boost do to well. Everyone is really motivated ahead of the race, and we are really raring to go.”

Tsunoda: “It’s been tough. This morning during the sprint, I tried to find my way, work the car, and learn a bit more, but I was still struggling. We looked into the data and felt like we made a step forward for qualifying. It’s mixed feelings. In sprint qualifying, I felt I wasn’t able to put it together from my side, but in today’s qualifying, I was pretty happy with my lap. I’ve been struggling with rear grip all weekend and looking at the steering trace compared to other cars, I’m fighting my car a lot but I’ve been working hard together with the engineers to improve it and find a solution, and they helped me a lot. Coming into qualifying, we felt good and confident we found an answer for our package. The lap itself I’m fairly happy with but the time doesn’t reflect the feeling, so it feels like we’re just stuck. Ending up P19 again is frustrating and a shame, but we’ll analyse, try to understand, and find the solution. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we have to change something to find more pace and hopefully, we can be close to the points.”

Gasly: “I am happy to be back in China after such a long time, it is a very unique track and great to see all the fans in the grandstand. The Sprint race was quite eventful but a solid result for us. We have made quite some aggressive set-up changes ahead of Qualifying and we knew it was going to be a difficult session, as it has been tricky to get into Q2 for us this season so far. So, I am pleased we have managed to put a clean weekend together up to this point, getting on top of the tyres between each session. The race tomorrow will be very interesting, especially in terms of tyre degradation. We will continue to push hard and get as much out of the car as possible tomorrow.”

Sargeant: “Qualifying was frustrating as it was a good lap until the spin. The car was on edge in the high speed this afternoon especially over the bumps and changes in tarmac. Nonetheless, it could’ve been a much better session. We used the Sprint as a chance to get a good long run under our belts and from that made some minor changes ahead of Qualifying based on what we felt and what we want for tomorrow. So, we need to see how that plays out in the race. Realistically it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll give it our best go and see where that leaves us.”

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