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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Vettel leads another Ferrari front row lockout as Hamilton starts Chinese Grand Prix in fourth

German enters the race in Shanghai with a 17 point lead over his Mercedes rival

Sebastian Vettel celebrates on his Ferrari after claiming pole for the Chinese Grand Prix. Lars Baron / Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel celebrates on his Ferrari after claiming pole for the Chinese Grand Prix. Lars Baron / Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton's championship fightback suffered another big dent in Shanghai after he qualified only fourth for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton dominated Friday's practice, but the Mercedes-GP cars had no answer to Ferrari in qualifying with Sebastian Vettel leading a front-row lockout ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the second weekend in succession.

Vettel, who already holds a 17-point lead over Hamilton following victories at the opening two races, saw off the challenge from Raikkonen to edge out the Finn with a dramatic last lap. Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas lines up in third.

Mercedes have dominated in China in recent years. Indeed you have to go back seven years for the last time a silver-coloured car failed to line up on the front spot.

But here, Hamilton struggled for pace, spinning during the morning practice session, before qualifying behind Bottas for the second time in as many races.

Hamilton was the best part of half-a-second down on Vettel, who will be the favourite to convert his pole into a third victory and extend his championship lead.

"I was happy with the whole lap," said Vettel, who finished just 0.087 seconds clear of Raikkonen. "The car was amazing and just kept getting better.

"I lost the rear of the car on my first lap so I was a bit beaten up, but I know if I get a tidy lap and have a bit of magic I could push it."

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Lewis Hamilton clears air with Max Verstappen ahead of Chinese Grand Prix

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Comment: Lewis Hamilton can win Chinese Grand Prix if there are no dramas

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Daniel Ricciardo faced a race against time to be ready for qualifying after his engine blew up in dramatic fashion in final practice. But following frantic work by his Red Bull crew, the Australian emerged from his garage with only minutes of Q1 remaining.

Ricciardo, whose Bahrain Grand Prix lasted less than two laps last Sunday following an electrical shutdown on his car, posted a lap just good enough to squeeze through to the next phase.

Ricciardo then qualified sixth which will come of some relief to both the Australian and his Red Bull team following their under-performing start to the new season. Max Verstappen will start one place ahead of his teammate.