Bottas keeps Mercedes on top in final Chinese GP practice

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice REUTERS  Thomas Peter

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice REUTERS Thomas Peter

He was later given the all-clear, but missed qualifying because his ruined vehicle could not be fixed in time.

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.

Bottas and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton had predicted a four-way fight for P1 in Saturday's qualifying session. Fifth was Red Bull's Max Verstappen and sixth, his teammate Pierre Gasly.

"I finally figured it out but it was too late".

Things appear set to be closer in 2019 with Bottas leading Hamilton by a point after three races of the season. Renault's Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg were in seventh and eighth, in front of the two Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.

Mercedes are in the driving seat ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, leaving Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari pondering their next move. "As a result of the accident, we are changing the PU and sending the one that was in the auto at the time of the crash back to Sakura for a full check".

"It's not going to be easy, but I think we have the pace to make a few overtakes and hopefully get some more points".

Albon lost control at the final corner, smashing his auto into the wall in front of the main grandstand Bit disappointing: Hamilton has qualified on pole position six times in China. "Luckily it was good enough for pole", smiled the Finn, who pipped Hamilton by 0.023 seconds after setting a best time of one minute 31.547. He was not injured in his accident but his Toro Rosso was too damaged to take part in qualifying and he will start from the back of the grid. I have to say, in Q3 both of the laps I felt there was something I could do better - I knew exactly where I could still improve, I just didn't get it right on the soft tyres. "I struggled to get the ideal lap in, but it was good enough". "I was struggling with the vehicle throughout the weekend, even into Q2", he said. He has been stellar all weekend. It was eight tenths at one stage so to be as close as we are at the end is fantastic.

" I've been fighting the vehicle but I'm much happier". It is always a combination of power and drag, so we need to leave no stone unturned on the chassis and the power unit to recover a little bit.

Ferrari had looked strong and their straightline speed is still highly impressive but Mercedes had a definitive edge through the turns that dominate sector two.

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