Despite having to settle for second place on the grid, Lewis Hamilton was pleased to close the gap to the “stellar” Valtteri Bottas.
Lewis Hamilton was “much happier” with his car after finishing narrowly behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Mercedes duo locked out the front row at the end of Saturday’s session, Bottas leading the way with a fastest lap of one minute 31.547 seconds to claim his first pole position since Russia last September.
Hamilton also started second on the grid in Sochi but went on to win the race – and the Briton is upbeat about his chances of doing the same again in Shanghai.
The reigning world champion had struggled in practice on Friday – including an early spin while out on cold tyres – but was happy to be so close to the “stellar” Bottas, having ended up just 0.023s back.
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“I’ve been fighting the car but I’m much happier. It was eight tenths at one stage so to be as close as we are at the end is fantastic.
“It’s an incredible result for the team. Ferrari are particularly quick on the straights, but it’s evident this weekend we’ve gained some performance through the corners.”
Hamilton has every right to be confident in China, too. He has won there five times in his Formula One career, the last of those triumphs coming in 2017.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was delighted with the performance in qualifying, with Bottas again impressing having already won the season opener in Australia and finishing second in Bahrain.
“It couldn’t have gone any better, the Ferraris squeezed it all out at the end – I’m happy,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
“The car looks good in terms of downforce level. And for Valtteri – like in Melbourne – it’s unbelievable.”