Bottas on pole in Mercedes one-two for landmark Chinese GP

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in action during qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix. (Reuters pic)

SHANGHAI: Valtteri Bottas grabbed pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday with Lewis Hamilton beside him in a Mercedes front-row lockout.

Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Mercedes’ arch-rivals Ferrari for the race in Shanghai, the 1,000th grand prix in Formula One.

Hamilton, a record five-time winner in China who struggled to get the car to his liking during Friday’s running, was fourth 0.859s off his team mate’s pace.

The gaps could be exaggerated, however, with a mistake forcing Hamilton to abort his first attempt at a flying lap when his tyres would have been at their freshest.

Vettel’s best effort was also compromised by an error.

The session was red-flagged with seven minutes left on the clock after a massive crash for Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon.

The Thai driver, who escaped unhurt, lost control at the exit of the final corner and slammed into the barriers with the mangled car coming to rest across the start-finish straight in a shower of carbon fibre debris.

Nico Hulkenberg was fifth for Renault ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo.

The Finn had a close call with team mate Antonio Giovinazzi with Raikkonen accusing the Italian of almost hitting him on purpose over the team-radio.

Max Verstappen was seventh for Red Bull, with the team appearing to have lost some speed after a promising showing in Friday’s practice sessions.

Carlos Sainz was eighth for McLaren.

Despite his crash, Albon still clocked the ninth-fastest time but his participation in the qualifying session later in the afternoon depends on whether his mechanics can rebuild his car in time.

Team mate Russian Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10.