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Hamilton takes China pole

NEWS STORY
08/04/2017

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32 degrees. As was the case in FP1 it is bright, we won't go so far as saying sunny because that never really happens here.

Furthermore, we won't go so far as saying "all important qualifying session", because no matter what happens over the next hour, tomorrow is going to another kettle of fish entirely. By that we mean that tomorrow is expected to see similar conditions to those which severely compromised Friday's sessions.

Thankfully an alternative has been found to the helicopter issue which caused all the problems, which thereby begs the question as to why this couldn't have been arrange in advance. That was, other than losing track time we wouldn't have had the kneejerk reactions from some on Planet Paddock - yes, we mean you too Lewis - in terms of how race weekend should be run from now on.

As a result of yesterday's issues, this morning's session was the first real insight into what we might expect this afternoon, and it's bad news for Mercedes and Red Bull.

Despite his mistake in T14 it is unlikely that Lewis Hamilton would have toppled Sebastian Vettel, and even then was the Briton's mistake the result of overdriving the car in an attempt to close the gap.

As a result, both Mercedes are over 0.37s off the pace, with the Ferraris separated by just 0.05s.

Red Bull's issues appear to be about more than Renault power. The Milton Keynes drivers were not only sandwiched by the Williams duo, Jolyon Palmer was only marginally off the times set by Verstappen and Ricciardo.

While the disappointing performance from McLaren was to be expected, the equally poor performances from Haas and Force India was not.

On the other hand, aware of tomorrow's weather are some teams focussing on tomorrow as opposed to this afternoon.

The lights go green and a few moments later Giovinazzi gets things underway. Ericsson and Stroll follow.

As Hulkenberg and Magnussen join in the fun, Giovinazzi posts the first time of the session, the Italian stopping the clock at 1:35.437. Teammate Ericsson can only manage 35.869.

Indeed, Stroll isn't that much quicker, the Williams driver posting 35.136.

Vettel, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Bottas head out, the Ferraris on softs while the Mercedes duo are on supers.

A 34.453 sees Hulkenberg go quickest, only to be demoted by Massa and his 34.205 who is in turn leapfrogged by Hamilton (33.333).

As Bottas goes second (33.727), Hamilton could have gone quicker but lost time due to a yellow flag after Grosjean spun.

Indeed, the Frenchman did well to keep it out of the wall, though he picks up a puncture in the process.

Vettel goes quickest (33.078) and Raikkonen third (33.341), sandwiching Hamilton.

Kvyat goes sixth (34.440) and Alonso ninth (34.499), but both are demoted when Ricciardo posts 34.041 to go fifth.

"There's something not right with the engine," complains Verstappen, who aborts his lap and heads to the pits.

"Not much to improve," says Alonso, "I pushed like an animal."

With less than 5 minutes remaining, Verstappen heads out on a fresh set of supers. Vandoorne is seeking to improve on 15th.

The drop zone currently consists of Stroll, Ocon, Palmer, Grosjean and Verstappen, the latter two yet to post a time.

Verstappen can only manage a 54.598 which puts him 20th.

Next time around he posts PBs in the first two sectors, as Stroll goes fifth with a 33.986.

Verstappen can only manage 17th (35.433) the teenager given a list of instructions as to what modes to use. He replies that he has the same problem as earlier.

With seconds remaining, Grosjean and Verstappen post PBs in S1, and again in S2.

As the chequered flag is waved, off goes Giovinazzi as he exits the final corner. He hits the wall, bringing out the yellow flags that wrecks the laps of both Grosjean and Verstappen.

"Sorry about that mate, that is us done," Verstappen is told, while Grosjean sighs: "When it's not your day, it's not your day. Fudge."

Replay shows the Sauber driver losing the back of the car as he runs wide in the final corner. Ironically, he makes it through to Q2 though his car is wrecked.

Vettel is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas, Stroll, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Animal Alonso.

We lose Vandoorne, Grosjean, Palmer, Verstappen and Ocon.

As the marshals clear the damaged Sauber from the track, the start of Q2 is delayed.

As it is revealed that there will be a further (5 minute) delay, the stewards confirm they are investigating Grosjean and Palmer for failing to slow down for the yellow flags that followed Giovinazzi's crash.

Red Bull reveals that Verstappen's issue was software related.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Shanghai, here.

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