Chinese GP Qualifying: Max Verstappen continues pole position run but Lewis Hamilton in shock early exit | F1 News

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.

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Lewis Hamilton is out in Q1 at the Chinese Grand Prix.

“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.”

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.

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

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 fourth ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri.

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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Carlos Sainz spins out of control from the gravel, sliding into the barrier to bring up a red flag during the Qualifying session at the Chinese Grand Prix.

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.

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 time on an 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 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 was able to hold on to that initially 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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Lewis Hamilton reflected on a short qualifying session after the Mercedes driver was out in Q1.

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

Already in the Q1 drop zone after his first lap had proved to be off the pace, Hamilton 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 first 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.”

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The best of the action from a dramatic Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix.

More to follow…

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*
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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