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Qualifying report

F1 Chinese GP: Verstappen claims Red Bull's 100th pole over Perez

Max Verstappen claimed Red Bull's 100th Formula 1 pole after headlining Chinese Grand Prix qualifying with a 1m33.660s, beating team-mate Sergio Perez by 0.3s.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

The championship leader had rarely looked beatable throughout the session and ploughed a lonely furrow in pursuit of pole position, particularly as nobody had been able to beat his opening 1m33.977s effort - let alone his ultimate pole lap.

This set up a thrilling battle to join him on the front row, however, and a series of contenders all staked their claim to start at the front. Fernando Alonso ended the first runs with the second-best lap time, but the second cycle precipitated further improvements.

Carlos Sainz, who recovered from a Q2 crash, initially popped up onto the front row, but was succeeded by Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc. Oscar Piastri beat them in turn before Lando Norris relegated his team-mate, but Alonso then briefly reclaimed his earlier position.

But Perez broke into the 1m33s to seal a Red Bull 1-2, knocking Alonso down to the second row of the grid - where he starts alongside Norris.

Piastri starts fifth alongside Leclerc, while Sainz joins George Russell on the fourth row as the Briton was Mercedes' sole representative in the top half of the field.

Nico Hulkenberg broke into Q3 and starts Sunday's race from ninth, with Valtteri Bottas completing the top 10.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24, spins

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24, spins

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Q2 was interrupted by a red flag as Sainz clipped the gravel with his rear tyres on the exit of the final corner and spun, ending up in the wall on the opposite end of the circuit. It looked as though the Spaniard was going to be unable to fire his car up again, but he scooped his car out of its resting place and coaxed it back into the pits.

Sainz managed to not only get back on track, but escaped the Q2 drop zone with a significant margin to book his place into the final stage of qualifying.

Lance Stroll was dumped out in the final moments as Bottas shrugged off his place in the drop zone with a time good enough for 10th, while Daniel Ricciardo's place in the top 10 had been brief as Leclerc put the Australian back into the drop zone, where he shook out in 12th.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly sandwiched Alex Albon, as neither Alpine nor the sole remaining Williams could break out of Q2.

Lewis Hamilton proved to be the biggest scalp eliminated in Q1 in a frantic end to the opening stage as the magnitude of track evolution had been considerable, although the seven-time champion could not benefit after a lock-up at Turn 14.

Having sought to break out of the drop zone, his final lap left Hamilton looking precarious at best ahead of a final deluge of runs in 12th, but further improvements enforced his subsequent plummet.

Sparks kick up from the rear of Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Sparks kick up from the rear of Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Gasly ultimately tipped Hamilton into the bottom five with his own escape from the drop, and both local hero Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen also fell into the elimination zone despite briefly finding safety in an ever-changing session - Zhou also snatching at the front wheels into Turn 14 on the brakes.

Yuki Tsunoda faced a brief DRS issue and, although this was ultimately fixed, the Japanese driver could not break out of Q1 despite feeling his lap was good. Logan Sargeant suffered a spin on his way to the bottom of Sunday's grid.

F1 Chinese GP - Qualifying results

   
1
 - 
3
   
   
1
 - 
2
   
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Time km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull

1'33.660

209.519
2 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull

+0.322

1'33.982

208.801
3 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes

+0.488

1'34.148

208.433
4 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes

+0.505

1'34.165

208.395
5 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes

+0.613

1'34.273

208.157
6 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari

+0.629

1'34.289

208.121
7 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari

+0.637

1'34.297

208.104
8 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes

+0.773

1'34.433

207.804
9 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari

+0.944

1'34.604

207.428
10 Finland V. Bottas Sauber 77 Sauber Ferrari

+1.005

1'34.665

207.295
11 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes

+1.178

1'34.838

206.917
12 Australia D. Ricciardo RB 3 RB Red Bull

+1.274

1'34.934

206.707
13 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault

+1.563

1'35.223

206.080
14 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes

+1.581

1'35.241

206.041
15 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault

+1.803

1'35.463

205.562
16 China Z. Guanyu Sauber 24 Sauber Ferrari

+1.845

1'35.505

205.471
17 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari

+1.856

1'35.516

205.448
18 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes

+1.913

1'35.573

205.325
19 Japan Y. Tsunoda RB 22 RB Red Bull

+2.086

1'35.746

204.954
20 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes

+2.698

1'36.358

203.653

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