Max Verstappen roars to Chinese GP pole as Hamilton sinks to new low

The Red Bull driver completed a 1-2 to secure the team's 100th pole position in China for Sunday's race

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Max Verstappen will start on pole for the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton’s wretched start of the 2024 season continued in qualifying in Shanghai.

The Red Bull driver had already established his phenomenal pace with a huge 13-second buffer between himself and Hamilton during the F1 Sprint race on Saturday, and he was once again in a league of his own in terms of one-lap pace ahead of Sunday’s race.

The Dutchman clinched his fifth consecutive pole and continued his perfect record in 2024 qualifying after finishing ahead of Sergio Perez, who beat Fernando Alonso at the checkered flag after a fine lap from the 42-year-old.

Lando Norris joined him on the second row in fourth ahead of Oscar Piastri in fifth, with the McLarens beating the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who were sixth and seventh respectively, while George Russell will start from eighth.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen of Red Bull leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix Sprint | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

It was a disastrous session for Mercedes star Hamilton, however, with the 39-year-old paying a heavy price for an error on his final run in Q1, meaning he will start from down in 18th.

Q2 was brought to a halt when Sainz caught the gravel on the final turn and spun his Ferrari into the barrier, although the Spaniard was fortunate not to sustain any substantial damage to his SF-24 other than a broken front wing.

Race Control decided to red flag the session, allowing the Scuderia engineers to fix his car and send him back out for the remainder of the session with six minutes and 44 seconds to go, and Sainz made it into Q3 by rising to third.

But no one could get close to Verstappen in Q3, with the 26-year-old some four tenths clear of Alonso to cruise to a 37th career pole position.

Hamilton sinks to new low

With warmer weather on Saturday than the rain-hit sprint qualifying on Friday, track evolution played a part in Q1 with a number of surprise names making their way into Q2.

The two Saubers of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu both made it through against the odds, with the home crowd producing a raucous cheer for the Chinese driver.

With only three minutes to go, Hamilton was the big name in danger of suffering an early elimination before he improved his time against the clock.

But the Briton fell victim to the improving conditions as he dropped to 18th after Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc all bettered their lap times at the checkered flag.

It represented Hamilton’s worst starting position since he was 22nd in 2016 and he only had himself to blame after repeating the same error made in the sprint race, locking up his brakes at the hairpin to lose several precious tenths of a second.

He apologised to his team on the radio following his rare mistake, disconsolately saying: “Sorry guys”, with Mercedes facing a stiff task to collect points on his side of the garage.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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