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Vettel ahead of Raikkonen in the fight for pole in China

Vettel ahead of Raikkonen in the fight for pole in China

For the second F1 race in a row, former four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will lead an all-Ferrari front row after qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix at the 16-turn, 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit near Shanghai today.

Raikkonen was quicker than Vettel in Q2, on provisional pole after the first runs in Q3 and posted the fastest first and second sectors of the session on his final lap.

Will Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari make it three wins in a row or can Mercedes and Red Bull respond in Shanghai?

Since Hamilton took pole position for the season-opening Australian GP, Ferrari have held a clear single-lap pace advantage over the world champions. He has won five times in China, including previous year, and has taken pole six times on the Chinese circuit.

At Red Bull, Max Verstappen has appeared to have a slight edge over Daniel Ricciardo, only for mistakes to let him down.

Vettel will, however, go into qualifying later on Saturday as favourite to break the German marque's stranglehold and hand Ferrari only their second pole in China. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0,5304.

When asked how he felt his pace was compared to Vettel before the Safety Car was deployed, Bottas said: "It felt like everything was under control and I had no major drop off in the end". I don't think necessarily I need to be less aggressive or anything because it's nothing to do with being overly aggressive but maybe wanting too much.

"I tried to defend but ultimately, with the better tyres, he could really brake quite a lot later and got inside".

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Daniel Ricciardo's race ended early too, Red Bull's woes compounded as his auto came to a halt and he was forced to retire. But to the surprise of the journalist, Vettel jumped to Hamilton's rescue asking if he could answer the question .

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For Hamilton, pictured, already 17 points behind Vettel, he will line up only fourth following a disappointing day in the gloom of Shanghai.

"I didn't see him until very late, I left a little bit of room as well", he said. They are two extremes like we had in Bahrain and I think this is what happened.

The second Renault of Carlos Sainz was ninth, with Kevin Magnussen completing the points scoring places in 10th place for Haas.

Despite being given a tow by McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, Fernando Alonso failed to reach the top ten.

F1's tight midfield battle is nearly as engrossing as the battle at the head of the field given the quality of drivers in teams like Haas-Ferrari, Renault F1, McLaren-Renault, Force India-Mercedes and Toro Rosso-Honda and how close they are to each other.

Hamilton and Bottas headed back out on another set of soft tyres while Ferrari opted for the ultrasofts.

Lance Stroll in P18 led the Sauber drivers, with Charles Leclerc, who nearly crashed his auto when he ran wide out of the last corner before his final lap, heading Marcus Ericsson by half a second.

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