Hamilton edges Vettel for sixth straight F1 pole in China

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Lewis Hamilton edged Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth straight pole position in Formula 1 after pacing the final stage of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

After losing out to Vettel in Australia two weeks ago, Hamilton plotted his fightback perfectly in qualifying with a scintillating lap late on, posting a time of 1:31.678 to capture pole in Shanghai.

Vettel was left to finish 0.186 seconds behind in second place, splitting the Mercedes drivers once again after beating Valtteri Bottas by just one-thousandth of a second. Bottas was left to settle for third ahead of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who ended the session fourth in the sister Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull, 1.3 seconds off Hamilton’s fastest time, while Felipe Massa put in another impressive display for Williams to take sixth on the grid. Rookie teammate Lance Stroll also impressed, reaching Q3 for the first time en route to 10th.

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Renault, marking the Enstone operation’s first Q3 appearance since the 2015 Russian Grand Prix, while former Force India teammate Sergio Perez was eighth.

Daniil Kvyat led Toro Rosso’s charge in qualifying, reaching Q3 for the second race in a row en route to ninth on the grid. Teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly missed out on a place in the top 10, finishing 0.069 seconds shy in P11, with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen following close behind.

Fernando Alonso took his McLaren-Honda MCL32 kicking and screaming up the grid yet again in qualifying, securing P13 on the grid despite a significant speed advantage on the back straight. The Spaniard was followed by the Sauber duo of Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi, the latter failing to take part in Q2 after a sizeable crash at the end of the first session.

The back of Sunday’s grid will be packed with talent after a number of surprises in Q1, the biggest being Max Verstappen’s elimination. An engine software¬†issue meant the Red Bull driver was left struggling for pace, ultimately qualifying 19th.

Stoffel Vandoorne was another driver left scrambling for pace as Honda’s engine woes continued, leaving the McLaren driver 16th on the grid. Giovinazzi’s smash ruined a number of late laps, including those of Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer, who qualified 17th and 18th respectively. Both are also set to face a grilling from the stewards for failing to slow for yellow flags shown for Giovinazzi.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon propped up the timesheets in P20 after being forced to abandon his final lap, with his first two sectors on a par with those of teammate Perez, who had easily made it through to Q2.

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 1am ET on Sunday.