Bottas pips Hamilton to pole for Mercedes one-two at Chinese Grand Prix

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice REUTERS  Thomas Peter

Both Ferrari cars were the quicker cars down the straights, but Mercedes manage to find time in the corners which assisted both Bottas and Hamilton on their laps.

In a nail-biting session, Bottas saw off the five-time world champion by just 0.023 seconds at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The crash for the Formula One rookie driver came in the final minutes of practice with Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes clocking the fastest time - 1 minute, 32.830 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel was third-fastest for Mercedes' arch-rivals Ferrari for the race in Shanghai, the 1 000th grand prix in Formula One. Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished fifth.

"I think we are getting more and more there, understanding maybe some things related to different tracks, which Barcelona [testing] doesn't show because it's different".

Hamilton added that he was "proud" of his improvements but conceded that team-mate Bottas was fully deserving of pole position.

Albon, who had looked in with a good chance of making the top 10, said: "I am OK".

He has every right to be expectant of extending his championship lead, now one point over Hamilton, on Sunday.

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The two Renaults were seventh and eighth, with Daniel Ricciardo leading teammate Nico Hulkenberg, while the two Haas drivers failed to set times in Q3 after missing out their runs while being stuck behind the Red Bulls.

"We have fortunately very safe cars", the Austrian explained in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

That was just 0.023 of a second ahead of Hamilton.

Albon hit the wall on the final turn as fans sat in silence until with only his still head visible in the cockpit.

The Finn has held an advantage over Hamilton so far this weekend and he looked in good shape during practice too.

British novice George Russell beat Williams team-mate Robert Kubica for the third race in a row and for the first time this season the two Williams cars will not start the race from the back row.

Discussing his lap, Bottas said: "It's been a good weekend so far - I felt really comfortable in the practice, but honestly I struggled in Q3 to get a ideal lap. It was a bit tricky today to put the laps together".

"The vehicle hasn't improved, I was struggling with the auto through the weekend, even into Q2", he said. "The gap was 0.8secs at one stage so to be as close as we were is a good job and an incredible result for the team". "But they are bloody quick in the corners!" was his quick-fire response. I think there was a little bit more.

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