After the Ferrari threat in Bahrain, things looked much closer in F1 Chinese GP between Mercedes and Ferrari but Lewis Hamilton had to work extra hard while Sebastian Vettel felt few lacks.
Ferrari looked much stronger in Bahrain as compared to Mercedes but reliability cost them dearly with the German manufacturer hanging on to their lead. The straightline advantage for Ferrari continued in F1 Chinese GP but Mercedes’ corner advantage was evident too.
So much so that whatever Ferrari gained through the straighline speed, Mercedes compensated that advantage through their corner speed which enabled Valtteri Bottas to shine through and take pole while Hamilton improved to second.
“The car hasn’t improved as you can’t change it in qualifying so it was just really extracting as much,” said Hamilton to the media. “As I said I was struggling with the car throughout the weekend, all day yesterday and even today, even into Q2.
“But I made a couple of changes to the settings on the wheel and some changes to the line and I managed to bridge the gap. Valtteri was particularly quick in the first sector so I was experimenting throughout the session.
“Finally, I got the quickest sector in the end but a little bit too late but still, it’s all about making improvements. It wasn’t to do with tyre temperature, it was just really to do a balance and getting the flow, utilising the grip in the right areas.
“But as I said, I’ve been struggling with the car so I was just battling the thing. It’s obviously a great car but this year I think the first few races are always quite tricky with a new car.
“You see it shifts a little bit later on in the season when you get a better understanding. Honestly, I’m quite proud of the job we’ve done considering how far away I was earlier on in the sessions and Valtteri has been quick all weekend, so he deserved the pole.”
On the other hand, teammate Bottas said he was able to gel well at Shanghai International Circuit and straightaway extract the required performance from the car. It wasn’t so straightforward for Ferrari though with Vettel radio message indicating the issue.
The German said that the team knows why they lost pole which he later on somewhat revealed it to be the corner speed as they were losing out in the middle sector. “I think right from Q1 they just seemed to start off from a better place,” said Vettel.
“I think we had a good session. Maybe there was a tiny bit more but I actually was quite happy that I managed the final attempt, because I was quite marginal with time, the team told me that we only had 10 seconds margin.
“So I then hurried up and made sure I crossed the line in time. I think there was maybe a little bit more, but overall not enough to beat these guys today. They are bloody quick in the corners, so you choose.
“For us, obviously when we get close I think we have an advantage in a straight line so maybe we can do something there. But the race is long and we’ll take it from there, but it should be a good day in the grand prix.”
His teammate Charles Leclerc never looked as quick as he did in Bahrain and so the Monegasque finished fourth. He actually had the threat from losing out to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who looked quick but couldn’t get a final lap in.
Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll, McLaren respond to China qualifying
What the teams and drivers said after Friday
Here’s what teams and drivers have done for Race 1000