Hamilton quickest in both practice sessions for Chinese GP

Sebastian Vettel was surprised by the gulf in performance between Ferrari and Mercedes ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

The forecast is for a warmer race today and that should be better suited to Hamilton's Mercedes auto, but the Briton, who will have the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo occupying his mirrors, fears he will be looking over his shoulder rather than hunting down Vettel. However, he might still be viewed as a favorite on Sunday despite missing pole position.

"That was just bad", said former F1 champion Nico Rosberg of the incident. "The auto was really unbelievable".

"We have seen the competitive picture change quickly over the past three races and it's clear that we still have much to understand about our auto and how to get the best from the tyres". "I was a bit beaten up, but knew that if I could get a tidy lap and have a little bit of margin, I can push it".

Ferrari had earlier shown their pace in the morning practice session, where Vettel and Raikkonen had also finished first and second.

Vettel said that Verstappen was past the point where the Dutchman's relative inexperience could be seen as an excuse. "It's not exactly what I wanted, but we go to tomorrow and see what we can do".

"Going into the weekend we all expected that Mercedes was struggling a little bit with the rear tires overheating in Bahrain so coming here, colder conditions, it should be ideal for them and quite the contrary, so we don't understand (it)", Rosberg told Sky Sports.

MercedesAMG' Valtteri Bottas lines up in 3rd.

"I am confident I can stay where I am, but moving forwards is going to be tough", Hamilton, 33, said. The Finn was faster than Hamilton but his best time was set on the soft tyre - he failed to improve on the ultra-soft, which ought to be the quickest.

Daniel Ricciardo's quali close shave was 'really close'
Behind him, Renault's Nico Hulkenberg drove a solid race for sixth, ahead of Alonso and an angry Vettel. The German locked a wheel going into the hairpin on lap 43 and ran a little wide.

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Carlos Sainz Jr says those starting on ultrasofts have locked themselves into a two-stop strategy, so the Red Bulls, the Renaults, Romain Grosjean's Haas and Sergio Perez's Force India are all compromised strategically compared to rivals starting outside the top 10. He managed to avoid the elimination zone just a tenth of a second.

"Obviously now without a big difference on the straights they can keep the gains they make in the corners".

The German lapped the 5.4-km Shanghai circuit in one minute, 31.095 seconds a track record to pip his Finnish team mate by a mere 0.087 seconds and take his 52nd career pole.

Kevin Magnussen was seventh for the USA -owned Haas team ahead of the other Renault of Spaniard Carlos Sainz. The upside for the eliminated Dane and Frenchman, however, is that both will be able to start on the advantageous soft tyre as opposed to the ultrasofts that their higher-placed teammates will be forced to use. Brendon Hartley qualified a further 0.3 seconds adrift in 15th.

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

RBR principal Christian Horner said his team would need a miracle to get the auto out in time to qualify, but with three minutes left on the clock Ricciardo left the pit lane to set one flying lap.

Crucially, it was a full second clear of Hamilton's quickest effort.

Unable to progress were the usual suspects at Williams and Sauber.

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