Sebastian Vettel pipped Ferrari Formula 1 team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to pole position for the Chinese Grand prix by less than a tenth of a second.
Raikkonen looked set to top qualifying after setting the fastest time on the first runs in Q3, and was ahead of his team-mate in the first two sectors of his final lap.
But Raikkonen’s slow pace in the final sector gave Vettel a shot and the German set the best final sector time of the session to snatch pole by 0.087s.
Both the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers set their Q2 times using the soft Pirellis, so will start the race on that compound while the rest of the top 10 will all use ultrasofts
The Mercedes pair never looked to be a serious pole position threat, with neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton able to improve on their first-run times in Q3 and both having to abandon their final runs.
Bottas was third, half-a-tenth faster than Hamilton, with the latter only 0.12s faster than the lead Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth after joining the first segment of qualifying late thanks to a turbo problem in free practice, lapping 0.152s slower than his team-mate.
Nico Hulkenberg was best-of-the rest for Renault. 1.473s off the pace, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Romain Grosjean was slowest in Q3, ending qualifying 10th and 0.036s off Sainz’s Renault.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was eliminated in Q2 for the first time this season after a poor middle sector on his final lap prevented him from improving on his first-run time.
This allowed Sainz to relegate him to 11th place by 16 thousandths of a second, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon not far behind.
The McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne gave each other a tow on the long back straight, but it wasn’t enough to haul the Renault-powered cars into Q2 and left them 13th and 14th respectively.
Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was slowest in Q2 and ended up 15th, just under three tenths slower than Vandoorne.
Sergey Sirotkin was knocked out in Q1 at the last minute when Sainz jumped up the order lap and pushed the Williams driver down to 16th place in the dying moments of the first stage of qualifying.
Sirotkin had looked to be a serious Q2 threat, but failed to match his personal best pace in the first sector and ended up half-a-tenth slower than Hartley.
Bahrain GP hero Pierre Gasly was 17th fastest, giving away enough time in the middle sector relative to his previous best to fail to make the cut, admitting after the session that overnight set-up changes had made life more difficult for him in qualifying.
Lance Stroll, in the second Williams, was 18th fastest ahead of the Sauber of Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc survived a spin after losing the rear on the power exiting the final left-hander on his second run to relegate team-mate Marcus Ericsson to last on their final runs thanks to the Swede’s poor final sector pace.
Ericsson has been summoned by the stewards for an investigation into not slowing under the yellow flags thrown for Leclerc’s spin.
Provisional starting grid
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m31.796s||0.701s|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m31.948s||0.853s|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m32.758s||1.663s|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m33.057s||–|
|15||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m33.795s||–|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m34.101s||–|