Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Chinese GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen continues pole position run but Lewis Hamilton in shock early exit

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Max Verstappen completed a personal super Shanghai Saturday to claim Red Bull’s landmark 100th F1 pole position as Lewis Hamilton suffered a shock early exit and qualified 18th for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Hours after Verstappen and Hamilton finished first and second respectively in an entertaining first Sprint race of the season, the pair’s days went in polar opposite directions around the challenging Shanghai International Circuit in the qualifying session to set the grid for Sunday’s main Grand Prix on Sunday, live at 8am on Sky Sports F1.

While Verstappen dominated dry qualifying for the Grand Prix to extend his run of poles to five at the start of the 2024 season, and career-best sequence of six overall, in a Red Bull front-row lockout with team-mate Sergio Perez, Hamilton dropped out in Q1 after a mistake at the hairpin on his final attempt and will start on the grid’s penultimate row.

“That is seriously painful. In 18th position is Lewis,” said Sky Sports F1’s Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s former team-mate.

“He had a great lap until then. It was really unnecessary to push the limit and as a seven-time world champion that is a mistake which should be unavoidable.

“It’s three metres too late and he had the brake balance too far forward. He lost at least four tenths which easily would have put him in Q2. That’s a disaster.”

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Ride onboard with Lewis Hamilton to gauge where it went wrong for the Mercedes driver in qualifying.

While Verstappen absolutely dominated the hour and topped all three knockout segments, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso threatened to deny Red Bull a front-row lockout and held a provisional second place after the first Q3 runs.

Perez proved 0.166s faster on the final attempts to move ahead of the Spaniard, although Alonso reckoned second would have been his had he not “lost two tenths in two corners” at the start of his own last lap.

With Alonso shuffled back to a still-impressive third, McLaren’s Lando Norris – who took pole on Friday for the Sprint in wet conditions – was just behind fourth ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri.

Chinese GP Qualifying: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

3) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

4) Lando Norris, McLaren

5) Oscar Piastri, McLaren

6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

7) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

8) George Russell, Mercedes

9) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

10) Valtteri Bottas, Sauber

Ferrari’s disappointing weekend continued, however, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz only sixth and seventh respectively.

It could have been worse for Sainz, though, after he crashed at the final corner early in Q2 before being able to drag his car, minus its nosecone, back to the pits for repairs under the red flag that followed the accident.

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The moment Carlos Sainz went spinning into the barriers during the second phase of qualifying.

Aston Martin subsequently lodged a post-session protest with the stewards over Sainz’s return to the track, alleging it broke F1’s Sporting Regulations, which was later dismissed.

After Hamilton’s shock early exit, George Russell progressed to Q3 in the sister Mercedes but could only qualify eighth – 0.773s away from the dominant Verstappen as the team’s disappointing start to 2024 continued.

Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas impressed behind to take ninth and 10th places respectively, the latter appearing in Q3 for the first time this season on a much-needed improved weekend for Sauber.

Although his wait for his own first top-10 berth of 2024 continues, under-pressure Daniel Ricciardo’s season continues to pick up in China as he followed up outqualifying RB team-mate Yuki Tsunoda for the Sprint by doing the same for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Ricciardo – who is running a new chassis this weekend – took 12th while Tsunoda ended up a frustrated 19th.

Hamilton ‘just struggled’ in worst qualifying for two years

No one has won at the Shanghai International Circuit – which is staging its first race this weekend since the Covid-19 pandemic – more often than six-time victor Hamilton but the Briton’s hopes of a strong result on Sunday on the race’s return now look remote.

Although he qualified an unexpected second in Friday’s qualifying session for the Sprint, that was in the wet and the conditions allowed Hamilton, one of the sport’s recognised ‘rain masters’, the chance to transcend his inconsistent car’s limitations.

He then continued to run at the front in the short-form Sprint, leading the first eight laps of the 19-lap dash after overtaking the pole-sitting Norris before being overhauled by Verstappen in the significantly quicker Red Bull.

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Hear from Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell after another difficult qualifying hour for the team.

But the effective reset of the weekend for Saturday’s later, all-dry qualifying session quickly turned sour for Hamilton.

Already in the Q1 drop zone after his first lap had proved to be off the pace, the Briton was on course to progress to Q2 as he reached the final sector of his crucial final attempt, but a lock-up under braking sent him wide at the final hairpin.

He eventually missed the cut by 0.116s, with Red Bull’s Perez only just the right side of the line in 15th. It was Hamilton’s first exit at the Q1 stage of qualifying since the 2022 Saudi Arabian GP.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Hamilton said he “just struggled” following another series of set-up changes to the W15 after the Sprint as Mercedes continue their search for performance.

“I made massive changes into Qualifying. It wasn’t too bad in some places. I couldn’t stop in Turn 14. It is what it is,” he said.

“This morning George [Russell] and I had very similar cars but this afternoon we’re trying to experiment still with the car so I went one way a long way and he went the other way just to see if we could find anything.

“That’s what we need to do at the moment but it didn’t work. I’ll give it my best shot…18th is pretty bad. When I was making the set-up changes I was like ‘it can’t get any worse, surely’ and it did. S*** happens.”

Verstappen reasserts supremacy as Ferrari fall behind

Twenty-four hours after qualifying behind Norris, Hamilton and Alonso in the rain-hit session to decide the Sprint grid, there was little debate about where pole position for the weekend’s main event was headed once full qualifying commenced.

The RB20 has again appeared the class of the field in the dry this weekend and Verstappen this time did not put a foot wrong on his way to the 37th pole of his career.

“After the Sprint race, it gave us a few more ideas for the car and I think the car worked even better in qualifying,” said the Dutchman, chasing a fourth win in five races on Sunday.

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Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen reflected on their qualifying session after another front-row lockout

“Definitely very happy with how the whole of qualifying went. The car was really nice to drive and also in Q3, that final lap felt pretty decent.

“I’m also very happy to drive here in the dry. The conditions were pretty good, so it was a lot of fun.”

Verstappen’s pole-winning lap of 1:33.660 was 0.322s faster than Perez, who had run his team-mate much closer in qualifying last time out in Japan, with Alonso a further tenth back.

The rest of the top 10 were half a second or more adrift.

That distant pack included Ferrari, who had hitherto proved Red Bull’s closest challengers this season but proved no similar threat here.

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Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc reflect on an interesting qualifying session with hopes for a stronger result in the race at the Chinese Grand Prix.

But Leclerc, who qualified as their lead runner ahead of Sainz, at least offered hope for a more competitive race from the Scuderia’s SF-24 cars from sixth and seventh on the grid.

“We compromised our qualifying by prioritising the race and struggled slightly more than we expected,” said Leclerc.

“Our race pace is strong and it will be a long one, with tyre degradation playing a big role here. Even the smallest change of wind can influence the car balance, so anything can happen.”

Chinese GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33.660
2) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.322
3) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.488
4) Lando Norris McLaren +0.505
5) Oscar Piasti McLaren +0.613
6) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.629
7) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.637
8) George Russell Mercedes +0.773
9) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +0.944
10) Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1.005
Knocked out in Q2
11) Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:34.838
12) Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:34.934
13) Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:35.223
14) Alex Albon Williams 1:35.241
15) Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:35.463
Knocked out in Q1
16) Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:35.505
17) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:35.516
18) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.573
19) Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:35.746
20) Logan Sargeant Williams 1:36.358

Sky Sports F1’s live Chinese GP schedule

China schedule

Sunday April 21
7am: Grand Prix Sunday: Chinese GP build-up*
8am: The CHINESE GRAND PRIX*
10am: Chequered Flag: Chinese GP reaction*
11am: Ted’s Notebook*

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

You can watch every session of the Chinese Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 and steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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