Sebastian Vettel headed up a one-two finish for Ferrari in the final Formula 1 practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday as drivers got the chance to complete some dry running in Shanghai.
After losing the majority of Friday’s running due to thick fog in the city that prevented the medical helicopter from operating, drivers were pleased to arrive at the Shanghai International Circuit in dry conditions on Saturday morning.
The final hour of running before qualifying was busy as drivers pushed to make up for the time lost, with teams splitting programs in a bid to gather data on both optimum tire compounds.
All drivers made the switch to super-softs for the final third of the session in order to complete their qualifying simulations, with Vettel laying down an impressive marker of 1:33.336 early on.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled to get close with their first attempts, going over three-quarters of a second slower, spiking concern for the Silver Arrows, particularly when Kimi Raikkonen rose to second place in the second Ferrari.
Both drivers rallied later in the session, though, with Bottas lapping 0.371 seconds off Vettel’s time. Hamilton had been due to go even quicker, going faster than Vettel in the first sector, only to then run wide at the hairpin. The Briton still improved, but ended the session fourth, half a second off the pace.
Ferrari’s one-two finish acted as a warning shot to Mercedes, putting the Italian marque in the pound seat to claim its first pole since Singapore 2015 in qualifying later today.
Outside of the Ferrari/Mercedes stronghold, Felipe Massa finished as the best of the rest in fifth place for Williams, with the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo following in P6 and P7.
Ahead of his second F1 race, Lance Stroll put in an impressive display to finish eighth for Williams, with Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounding out the top 10 in P9 and P10 respectively.
Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 3am ET.