Ricciardo pulling over in FP3 with plumes of smoke funnelling out the back of his car left his mechanics with a battle to change his engine in time for qualifying. They managed it, but only just - he exited the pits with time for one flying Q1 lap and did enough to scrape through to Q2. Considering his lack of running, sixth is a decent result. Verstappen starts just ahead and although his RB14 lasted the sessions, that didn't stop the Dutchman repeatedly complaining on the radio about technical gremlins in his engine...
Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:31.796
“We achieved a good car balance and feeling today so I don’t think we could have done too much more, I would say fifth on the grid is quite realistic and where we should have been. I don’t feel like we got the maximum out of the engine in Q3, I think there would have been some time to find if we had. We are losing time on both of the straights which is hard to make up in other areas of the track, we knew the corners would be important but it was not enough to make up the difference. In general it was not a bad Qualifying, Ferrari were very fast but we were not that far off Mercedes at the end. In the race they can’t use these engine modes so, based on the long run pace, we can be a lot closer to the guys in front. We have a different strategy, it may be a one stop or possibly a two stop race and depending on temperatures and degradation things can change. Hopefully we’ll have a clean start and then we’ll have to see if we can get up the field and secure a podium.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:31.948
“I’m happy to have got out in Qualifying and I want to thank the mechanics for doing such a great job. I think they have broken their own record for an engine change several times and they did it again today. It got to 2pm and the guys were saying get ready, but we didn’t think it was going to happen. I didn’t expect to get out but I was ready to go and excited when I did. What happened this morning wasn’t the mechanics’ fault but they had all the pressure to put the new engine in the car in time and they did very well. In the end it’s relatively close, we’re at the tail end of the top six which isn’t ideal, but I think with all things considered it wasn’t a bad afternoon and I’m just thankful that the team were able to get me out there. I think they all start on softs in front of us tomorrow and from what I understand myself and Max will start on ultrasofts, so strategy will definitely play a big part and hopefully it can help get us up on the podium.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a fantastic effort from the crew on car three, assisted when possible by the car 33 crew to get an engine change turned around in such a short period of time. There was a significant amount of work to get Daniel out for Q1 and everyone in the garage did a brilliant job. Progressing through to Q3 in fifth and sixth is about where we are pace wise on this track in Qualifying trim, but hopefully we can be in a more competitive shape tomorrow. We have a different tyre to start the race on so hopefully that will make things interesting.”
Yesterday the momentum was with Hamilton, but today his form around one of his best circuits deserted him. First in practice he ran wide several times, before spinning after putting two wheels onto the damp artificial grass. Then in qualifying he couldn't hook up a lap on the ultrasoft tyres. Fourth is not the result he was looking for, but at least around this track overtaking is possible. Bottas was consistent - and quicker - but equally couldn't find the pace to challenge the Ferraris ahead.
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:31.625
"We came here thinking we'd be fighting for pole position but unfortunately that was out of reach. It was a pretty straightforward qualifying and it felt like I got everything out of the car. Maybe we didn't get the tyres absolutely perfect for the lap but I don't think it would have been enough for us to beat the Ferraris. That's particularly disappointing because the gap to them is quite big. We definitely have work to do but tomorrow is a different day. Today it was really windy and cold, tomorrow it should be nice and sunny. We've been looking better on the harder compounds and we will start the race on the Soft, so maybe we can use that to our advantage. It's a long race ahead and, as we saw last weekend, it will be close. On paper, this track is easier for overtaking than Bahrain, so hopefully tomorrow we can make up for what we lost today."
Lewis Hamilton, 4th, 1:31.675
"It's been a difficult day. We started the weekend positively in practice, but the car went away from us today, the pace just wasn't there. Ferrari have definitely improved over the weekend - maybe they didn't quite show their true pace yesterday - but today they were rapid. We were half a second behind them in qualifying, which is why I boxed on my final lap because I knew I couldn't match their pace. It's not going to be easy to beat Kimi and Sebastian tomorrow, they're the quickest on the straights too, so overtaking will be tough. We start fourth and I'm gonna have to fight from there. It should be hotter tomorrow, which could turn everything on its head. We'll keep our heads up and keep pushing. The fans here in China have been amazing, I hope they know I'll do everything to fight for them tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It has been a complex weekend for us so far - on some laps, we have hit the window of tyre performance just right like on the final run in Q2; but more often it has felt like we were chasing that window, especially on the UltraSoft tyre where we have been lacking overall grip. On the other hand, Ferrari have been strong in all conditions and on all tyres and this afternoon's qualifying results reflect as much. We can see a number of areas of difference on the GPS traces and we need to analyse those carefully. We expect the track temperatures to be much warmer tomorrow and we hope that we have anticipated that change in the right way with the set-up. Ferrari and ourselves will start of the soft tyres, which is a strategic variation to the cars right behind us, and should provide one more ingredient for an interesting race."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Conditions today have been even cooler than yesterday and we really struggled to get the tyres to work well. We saw this more or less straight away in FP3: both drivers were reporting that the grip wasn't there and it was taking us multiple laps to get down to a time. Conversely it seemed to come easily for some other teams. We made some changes to improve the situation for qualifying however, we always seemed to be a step behind Ferrari and we didn't have an answer for their performance in the final session. We were able to get through Q2 with the more durable soft tyre and, although this wasn't initially as easy as we would have hoped, it does mean that we can challenge Ferrari on the same strategy. For tomorrow, we're expecting clear skies, sunshine and a different situation regarding the track and tyres. This is a circuit where you can overtake and so long as we can stay close to Ferrari, there are plenty of ways that we can put them under pressure. We're also going to have to keep our eyes on Red Bull who looked very consistent on Friday on the UltraSoft and will be able to take risks on strategy if there is no threat from behind. As always, our goal is to win and we will be doing everything we can to make that happen."
Vettel and Raikkonen came out early doors in practice and immediately showed that they had pace to spare at the front of the field, with the German just pipping his team mate on the leaderboard. Come qualifying it looked like a two-Prancing Horse race and so it proved. Raikkonen grabbed provisional pole before yet again Vettel laid down a perfect last lap to steal the glory from his team mate.
Sebastian Vettel, 1st, 1:31.095
“It’s been a great result and I am really happy for the team. Today the car was amazing and it was great fighting for the front row with both cars on our own. It was very windy and not easy to get the right feeling. However, when the car is quick and works, you get a lot of confidence and that helps. We didn’t expect to be so strong compared to our competition. We made some small changes today on our car, but it was pretty good yesterday already. I made some mistakes during my first lap in turn three and six, where I had oversteer. The tyres here are very sensitive, so I knew that if I kept it clean, then the final part of the lap would be better. I didn’t know what the others were doing, but I was quite sure about getting the pole because I think I was one of the last cars and so could profit from track evolution. Tomorrow the weather should be sunny, which makes the asphalt hotter. We’ll see how it works, but I think we’ll be very close.”
Kimi Raikkonen, 2nd, 1:31.182
“We have been pretty happy with the way things have been so far this weekend. Qualifying today was pretty close; we had two good laps, but unfortunately I lost some speed in the last sector and couldn’t improve. Obviously I wanted more, but tomorrow is another day. We ‘ll start the race with the soft tyres and our rivals start with the same compound: that will be slightly different compared to the other cars and I think it will be better like this. We did what we think is the best for us and is supposed to give us the best result in the end. Our aim is to win, first of all we need to do a good job tomorrow and take the most out of it. I think we have been ok in all the races so far; we have been extracting more out of the car and learning more about it. We have been pretty consistent and happy with things, obviously we need to improve here and there but that’s a normal and never ending process.”
Sirotkin showed that Williams had more speed than expected today by finishing FP3 in tenth place. Unfortunately as the other teams dialled up their pace in qualifying, Williams lagged behind. They did at least out-qualify both Saubers, while Sirotkin won the intra-team battle with the more experienced Stroll.
Sergey Sirotkin, 16th, 1:34.062
"We were very close to Q2 and we have improved from Bahrain. I think we have continued to work well and we’ve done some good work through the weekend. We went P10 this morning, which is extraordinary given our shape at the moment. Even the first lap in Q1 was really decent. I don’t think we maximised the second lap, and we can find more time there. Maybe not as much time as others, because I think our first run was better than most of them, but still I believe we could have got a little more which would allow us to jump into Q2. I’m sorry about this, but at the same time we’re moving forward step by step."
Lance Stroll, 18th, 1:34.285
"It was tricky with both cars out in Q1. To be honest I am not happy with the result of Q1. But we were really struggling all weekend, and I spun yesterday so never got a baseline. We were trying so many different set-ups in FP1 because of the struggles coming out of Bahrain. I didn't actually put everything together in qualifying, but I am really happy to get a bit closer. It is not as good as it was in Australia, but maybe a bit better than Bahrain, however, tomorrow is another day and anything is possible."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"The team has done some great work so far this weekend to find a few improvements on the car relative to where we were in Bahrain. Therefore, there’s some disappointment that we didn’t manage to get at least one car into Q2, which had looked to be a possibility having seen the performance from FP3. However, it was a great job by both drivers in quite tricky conditions to get good laps. We now focus on the race tomorrow when conditions will be very different."
A mixed bag for McLaren. Vandoorne suffered telemetry issues which reduced his running in FP3. Come qualifying, the team opted to try coordinating their drivers' efforts in order to give each of them a tow, but to no affect as it didn't make a significant enough difference for either to make Q3 for the first time this season. Nonetheless, they have scored points from starting outside the top 10 at the last two races, so all is not lost.
Fernando Alonso, 13th, 1:33.232
“We didn’t have the pace to make it into Q3 today. After we were P9 in Q1, we were a little bit more optimistic and thought we could make it into the top 10, but then in Q2 we weren’t quick enough.
“We were P11 in Australia, P13 in Bahrain and here, and that’s where we are at the moment for qualifying. Not enough, we know, as we seem to be slow on the straights, but we have the potential to improve that.
“Anyway, making it into Q3 would’ve meant starting the race tomorrow on Ultrasoft tyres, which I believe will degrade quite quickly on a hotter track due to the sunny weather forecast for tomorrow. So, in the end, I’m happy with P13 and a free choice of tyres.
“Our race pace is a little bit better than our quali pace, so by taking good care of the tyres, and with a good start and a good strategy, points are still very possible for us.”
Stoffel Vandoorne, 14th, 1:33.505
“Today’s result is obviously a little bit disappointing, but we’re more or less in the positions we were expecting to be in. Since the start of the season we’ve been around these places in qualifying, so this is how it is at the moment. There’s some work ahead of us to improve our performance.
“On the positive side, our long run pace from Friday practice looks very promising, so we have something to play for tomorrow. We’ll also have free tyre choice, which looks to be something pretty crucial again here and will make a difference. The higher temperatures expected for tomorrow will play to our advantage in terms of tyre degradation, as most people ahead of us will be on the Ultrasofts.
“We’re looking to be ambitious again, take any opportunities, make no mistakes and have a strong race.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“Given that the Bahrain and Chinese Grands Prix take place on consecutive weekends, we knew we wouldn’t be expecting a significant change in performance from one to the next.
“Of course, since Bahrain, we’ve taken steps to adapt our approach to qualifying, but any direct improvement is part of a longer-term development plan that is in the pipeline for the coming races.
“Nevertheless, the team has been meticulous in our preparation for every session this weekend using our learning from Bahrain and the data we’ve been gathering here. Although we’re not expecting overnight miracles, we believe our race pace will continue to be more representative of our true performance.
“As we know, the all-important result from any grand prix weekend comes in the race, and that’s where our focus firmly lies. Tyre strategy will be key and having a free choice is a certain advantage over the cars further ahead of us. Our aim is to continue our momentum from the past two race days and bring home some more valuable points tomorrow afternoon.”
Today marked something of a return to form for Force India, after two below-par performances in the first two races. Both drivers finished in the top 10 in final practice, and Perez went one better by not just making Q3 but out-qualifying Sainz and Grosjean when he got there. Ocon starts in P12, but does have the consolation of free tyre choice.
Sergio Perez, 8th, 1:32.758
“I am very pleased with our performance today as a team. My Q3 lap was very strong and I feel that we really maximised qualifying. The wind was very tricky because it changed completely from yesterday and I knew it could offer us an opportunity. Q2 was quite close and I made it through at the last attempt, and in Q3 we only did one flying lap, which was enough for P8. I am pleased we are so close to our rivals and I hope we can stay in that mix and come out on top of the midfield group tomorrow. The strategy will be interesting because starting on the ultrasoft may not be ideal, but we will try and make it work. We are feeling positive: we are getting closer and closer with every race, understanding more about our car and unlocking its performance.”
Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:33.057
“I’m not totally satisfied with today because I’d prefer to be starting further up the grid. The difference between making Q3 and not was just over a tenth, which I probably lost in the final corner with a small mistake. It shows just how close everybody is in the midfield. It’s a shame to miss out on Q3, but on the positive side I can start the race with a free choice of tyres. The target tomorrow is to score points again.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“We’ve looked a bit more competitive here, building on the progress we made in Bahrain, and I think today’s result is a fair reflection of where we stand at the moment. The team is working hard to improve the car session by session and we’re seeing the result of all those efforts. Sergio’s lap in Q3 was excellent and eighth place on the grid presents a good opportunity to score points. Esteban has been matching Sergio all weekend and was unlucky to miss out on Q3 today. Starting outside the top ten gives him some more freedom with tyre strategy tomorrow which could play into his hands.”
Both Gasly and Hartley repeatedly ran slightly wide searching for the perfect line in practice, kicking up standing water on each occasion and they were lucky to avoid falling foul of the slippery artificial grass and spinning like Hamilton did. In qualifying they lacked the pace they had shown in Bahrain. Hartley did make it out of Q1 but no further, while Gasly was disappointed to be knocked out at the earliest stage and find himself in a Williams sandwich.
Brendon Hartley, 15th, 1:33.795
“We had a little issue on my car yesterday but we solved that overnight, both of us have been struggling on this track compared to Bahrain. There’s a number of contributors; the temperature is very different and the wind is very high here. We saw it in Melbourne as well, we seemed to suffer more when the wind picked up compared to the other cars. In Bahrain, we had a stronger car and now we have to figure out why it wasn’t the same story here, but that just shows how competitive this midfield battle is. I think this track can promote some overtaking and a bit of racing and I believe the temperature will be warmer tomorrow as well. In the race, things could completely turn around just because of the change in temperature and wind - that’s how sensitive these modern Formula 1 cars are. I’m staying positive and I think points are possible from P15. All in all, I was pretty happy with the job I did today.”
Pierre Gasly, 17th, 1:34.101
“It was a tough day today. Yesterday was quite positive for us finishing 11th and 12th, but we changed the car and since this morning I’ve struggled to find pace which made it difficult to put everything together. We didn’t have much time to change the setup between FP3 and Qualifying, and in the end it was a difficult qualifying session. I’m still learning a lot about the track, I think in the long run yesterday we looked OK in terms of degradation - so that’s positive - but starting 17th we will have to find a way to come back. Hopefully we can understand what went wrong and find the pace again tomorrow. Yesterday we struggled a bit with the front of the car and today there were problems with the rear. I would say we know in the long run we’re usually pretty good with the degradation, but tonight we need to understand why the changes we made didn’t work. We’ll try everything to come back tomorrow.”
James Key, Technical Director
“It’s been a tougher weekend than expected, we knew that this circuit wasn’t going to suit us as well as the last event, but we hoped for a better performance than we showed today. I think the very cold temperatures and the windy conditions are not helping us, and we have had trouble finding a good balance, although of course the conditions are the same for everyone. Pierre hasn’t been comfortable with his car for most of the day - certainly not as comfortable as yesterday where we had a more competitive package – and sadly he was out in Q1, something we need to look into in more detail to understand where we missed out. Brendon got through to Q2, and while he progressed OK and did a clean lap, we didn’t progress as much as we had of liked. I think we have to face the fact that’s where we have been today and hope tomorrow that in better weather conditions we can make good progress. Overall, it was a disappointing qualifying session and we need to go away and carefully study what has had such a negative effect on our competitiveness today.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Overall, this was a disappointing result for the team, but Brendon did well to get into Q2. On the PU side, everything has gone smoothly so far and we will now study the data to ensure we have a good race tomorrow.”
Grosjean had to carefully pull into the pits in FP3 with a rear brake disc on fire, and was soon engulfed in a haze of extinguisher fumes as his mechanics rescued the situation. That led to a race against time to get his VF-18 out in time for qualifying, which his team did well to manage. Despite his lack of running and yesterday's lack of form, the Frenchman laid down a series of clean laps to reach Q3 at the expense of his team mate, who had up until that point looked the better bet.
Romain Grosjean, 10th, 1:32.855
“This morning, we had our problem (with the brake-by-wire) and the team did an amazing job to put the car back together. There was a lot of work on the car. The engineers changed quite a lot on the setup last night to give me a better feeling in the car, which was great to have today. So, I’m really pleased with all of that. I was very pleased to get through to Q3. Our position in Q3 is not ideal. On the last lap, we didn’t have the grip we had earlier on in the session. We just need to analyse that and make sure we understand why. Tomorrow, the first stint is going to be the key. We’re starting on the ultrasoft, and everyone behind is going to start on the better tyre (the soft), but we can work from there.”
Kevin Magnussen, 11th, 1:32.986
“It’s a little bit disappointing to not progress into Q3. I had a bad out lap, and with these tyres, at this track, it’s a very narrow window to get them to work. If you don’t hook it up perfectly on the warmup, you lose a lot of performance. On top of that, it wasn’t a perfect lap. I think P11 is perhaps not so bad a qualifying position. We have a free choice of tyre to start the race, so that’s a bonus. The car is pretty good. If we can hook it up tomorrow and have a good race, I’m sure we can score some points.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was quite a good qualifying. We’re in quite a good position to be in the points tomorrow. If there’s a place you want to qualify 11th, this is the place, and that’s where we are with Kevin. With Romain, we were already happy just to get him out in time for qualifying, as we had the issue in FP3 with the brake-by-wire. It was a good job from the team to get the car ready again, and we ended up qualifying in the top-10. I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I think we’ve got a very good chance to get two cars in the points for the first time this year.”
For the third race in a row Renault had both cars through to Q3, with Hulkenberg qualifying in seventh for the sixth consecutive race. The German also continued his record of out-qualifying his team mate at every race so far this year. A double points haul could see Renault leapfrog McLaren in the constructors' standings too.
Nico Hulkenberg, 7th, 1:32.532
“I’m happy with that, seventh place again, which is probably the best we could do today. We achieved our qualifying mission and that’s a positive. I’ve had a good feeling and good rhythm on this track this weekend and the balance of the car feels fine. Tomorrow is a little more challenging, the first stint will likely be on the shorter side for sure, but we have good pace on all compounds, so that makes me optimistic for the race.”
Carlos Sainz, 9th, 1:32.819
“It’s good news to have both cars again in Q3, we did a reasonable job. We lost DRS in Q1 with a yellow flag so couldn’t go into Q2 with only one-set of tyres, which then meant I only had one new set of ultras for Q3. We’re still not at one-hundred percent, especially in the slower speed corners, but it doesn’t worry me too much. Now I’m looking forward to the race, we’ll assess our options and see how things pan out. Degradation is going to be a big concern but I’m sure we can start off with a good first stint and hopefully bring more points home.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
"It was a straightforward session, with the exception of Carlos needing a second Q1 run. The car is working very well here and has had a good balance from the first runs of Friday. We made small improvements through qualifying, refining the balance with the front wing as the track grip improved over the three sessions. Overall it’s a good result for the team today. Tomorrow we should see the sun again and with it a step in track temperature. We are prepared for this with our cooling set accordingly and are looking forward to another strong race."
Leclerc put two wheels off track and spun his C37 in Q1. Although he recovered and continued, his team mate failed to slow sufficiently under the resultant yellow flags and received a five-place grid drop for the race. Given Ericsson qualified in 20th, that is hardly significant.
Marcus Ericsson, 20th, 1:34.914
“It was not the best qualifying session for me. We knew that it would be difficult to get into Q2 because we have been struggling quite a bit on the ultrasoft tyres this weekend. My last lap was looking quite good until I locked up towards the end and had to lift off. We had a good race pace during the two practice sessions yesterday, which is encouraging for tomorrow’s race. I look forward to getting into the fight, and will do the best job possible.”
Charles Leclerc, 19th, 1:34.454
“Overall, I am quite happy with my day. Even though a small error on my fast lap cost me some time, it was the first qualifying this year in which I am satisfied with my own performance. So far, our race pace has been better than our qualifying pace this weekend, so it will be interesting to see what is possible during tomorrow’s race.”
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“The cool conditions helped the ultrasoft tyre today, which has a low working range, but the picture might change slightly tomorrow if conditions are a bit warmer, as is expected. Qualifying today was particularly tricky as yesterday’s rain also cleaned the track of residual rubber, leaving very little grip and ensuring drivers had to warm up the rubber carefully. Nonetheless, we saw the track record broken around this circuit, with a particularly good effort by Red Bull to get Daniel Ricciardo out after an engine change. The crucial session was Q2, with both Mercedes and Ferrari choosing to start the race on the soft tyre. Strategy-wise, we could see a variety of options tomorrow, with a onestop possible. With the nominations we have selected, all three compounds can play an important role.”