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Chinese GP Qualifying: Verstappen supreme, Red Bull unchallenged

Chinese GP Qualifying: Verstappen supreme, Red Bull unchallenged

Chinese GP Qualifying: Verstappen supreme, Red Bull unchallenged

Max Verstappen took the fifth consecutive pole position of the 2024 Formula 1 season and will start the Chinese GP from the top spot.

Verstappen’s five poles in a row was last achieved by the double F1 Champion Mika Hakkinen back in the 1999 season.

Red Bull celebrated their 100th pole position in 15 years in the best way possible as Sergio Perez was second fastest behind his teammate the reigning F1 Champions unchallenged on the day.

Fernando Alonso was an excellent third in the Aston Martin having gone second fastest briefly before Perez relegated him to third.

Lando Norris was fourth fastest in the McLaren ahead of Oscar Piastri in fifth, beating both Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

George Russell was the only Mercedes in Q3, eighth fastest, with Lewis Hamilton knocked out in Q1 and will start the race from 18th.

Hamilton said after being eliminated: “Just struggled – it is what it is. This morning, George and I had very similar cars but we are trying to experiment still and so I went one way by a long way and he went the other. Yeah, it didn’t work – 18th is pretty bad. Sh!t happens.”

Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas were both superb, finishing ninth and tenth fastest respectively.

Verstappen credits ideas learned from the Sprint

After taking his 37 F1 career pole position, Verstappen said: “After the Sprint race, it gave us a few more ideas for the car and I think the car worked even better in Qualifying.

“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,” he concluded.

Perez added after delivering another strong qualifying: “It was very intense. I nearly got knocked out in Q1. I had traffic with one of the Williams, I had to abort my lap, drove back on hot, used tyres and just made it through in P15. It was just a very messy start to qualifying.

“Q2 was a little bit more straightforward. I could really get a read into the balance and we were making some nice progress through the session.

“Unfortunately it was just not enough to get Max, but overall it’s a tremendous team result because the track has changed a lot. We changed a lot the car as well to adapt to the conditions, so hopefully that will also pay out tomorrow.

“It’s everything to play for tomorrow. We can be fighting from there and we can definitely have a strong rhythm. We showed today that we have fairly good pace in the long run, so I look forward to tomorrow,” the Mexican concluded.

An elated Alonso lamented a small mistake but was happy with third, he commented: “Sector One I had a moment in Turns One and Two and I nearly lost the car. Then I said ‘OK, I keep going or abort the lap’ because I lost two tenths in two corners.

“We didn’t give up and kept on pushing through the lap and set a good lap time. The car improved since the Sprint. We made a few setup changes, let’s see if we can convert that into points.

“I’m extremely happy and proud of the team. We are not giving up and are not in the position we want yet but we keep pushing,” the double F1 Champion concluded.

Q3: Verstappen knocks it out of the park

The final shootout in qualifying was soon underway the drivers wasting no time to get out on the track to set the starting grid of Sunday’s race.

The first run of laps saw Verstappen go on provisional pole, four tenths fastest of Alonso in second and almost half a second faster than Perez in third. Norris was fourth.

With four minutes remaining, the finals runs were a go as Sainz led teammate Leclerc and the pack out of the pits. The top four remained in for a few minutes before following.

Verstappen improved even more in his final run and set pole with a blinding 1:33.660, 0.332s faster than teammate Perez who did well to qualify second after his Q1 issues.

Alonso was 0.488s off the pace in third and 0.017s ahead of Norris who was only good for fourth, with Piastri 0.108s further down the road in fifth.

Ferrari lacked the firepower to fight for the front row with Leclerc 0.629s down from pole in sixth and 0.008s ahead of Sainz in seventh, the latter impressively bouncing back from his Q2 crash.

Russell was 0.773s off the benchmark time in eighth ahead of Hulkenberg and Bottas who were ninth and tenth respectively.

Report in progress…

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Q2: Sainz crashes but makes Q3

The remaining 15 drivers set out for the second stage of qualifying to book a place in the top ten shootout.

With less than seven minutes remaining, Sainz spun in the final corner after putting one wheel in the gravel, his SF-24 going into the barriers and bringing out a Red Flag.

However, the Spaniard was able to get going again and drove back to the Ferrari pits but without a front wing.

At that moment, the top ten were: Verstappen – Norris – Piastri – Alonso – Perez – Hulkenberg – Bottas – Stroll – Leclerc – Ricciardo.

The Red Flag stopped the clock at 6:44, the amount of time remaining the drivers to have another go to attempt and enter Q3.

The session was resumed and Sainz was lucky to take part again but the pressure was on as he has just one chance to put a lap time in.

With Q2 done and dusted Verstappen remained the fastest driver and posted a 1:33.794, 0.232s ahead of Perez in second whole Sainz did an excellent job to go third fastest ahead of Leclerc in fourth.

Out of qualifying was Lance Stroll was 11th fastest bumped out by Bottas in the Sauber, the Canadian missing out by 0.069s.

Daniel Ricciardo was 12th fastest in the RB, 0.096s behind Stroll and 0.289s clear of Esteban Ocon, 13th fastest in the Alpine.

Alex Albon was 14th fastest for Williams ahead of Pierre Gasly, 15th fastest in the other Alpine.

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Q1: Lewis Hamilton eliminated

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Following the Sprint Race, the clear conditions continued into qualifying, with track temperatures at the start of Q1 registering 35 degrees Celsius with ambient temperature at 22 degrees.

With the rules of a Sprint weekend now allowing breaking parc ferme conditions between the Sprint and qualifying, the teams and drivers would’ve done some changes on their cars after lessons learned and data collected from the short race and its qualifying.

Perez soon complains about Albon in the Williams who was in his way the latter radioing that he did his best to avoid the Mexican. The incident was noted by the stewards but no further investigation was required.

With six minutes remaining from Q1, Sainz lead the proceedings from Piastri, Alonso, Verstappen, Bottas, Albon, Russell, Leclerc, Stroll, Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Zhou Guanyu, and Logan Sargeant.

Perez did not set a time at the moment as his incident with Albon ruined his first attempt, he was out on track with four minutes remaining, while Norris with a first effort good for 17th was running again to make sure he enters Q2. Hamilton was 18th.

Norris goes to the top on his second attempt as all the teams sent their drivers out for the finals runs before the slowest five get eliminated.

Less than a minute from the end, a brief Yellow flag was raised as Sargeant spun at Turn 9.

In the end, Verstappen led the pack into Q2 with a 1:34.742, 0.055s ahead of Leclerc in second with Norris third.

Local hero Zhou was the first of the losers, he was 16th missing out on Q2 by 0.048s to Perez who barely made it into the second stage.

Kevin Magnussen was 17th fastest in the Haas, 0.011s behind Zhou and 0.057s ahead of Hamilton who was only 18th. A great disappointment for the seven-time F1 Champion after his string Sprint performance.

Yuki Tsunoda was 19th fastest, mystified by his lack of performance as Ricciardo made it into Q2. Sargeant was dead last as usual.

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