Max Verstappen during Saturday's action at the Chinese Grand Prix. (Pierelli Photo)

Verstappen Seals Chinese Grand Prix Pole, Adds Red Bull Milestone

In Formula 1’s first sprint race of the season, Max Verstappen topped the field once again ahead of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

After starting fourth in the 19-lap sprint, The Oracle Red Bull Racing driver steadily maneuvered his way to the point. Polesitter Lando Norris went off course during the first lap, surrendering the lead away.

“The start of the sprint was a bit tricky for me because the other drivers on the grid had new tires, so for the first lap they had a bit more grip than I did,” Verstappen said. “My battery was also completely empty, so I had to do a few changes on the wheel to try and get it back up, but once that was all sorted out the pace was good, I was able to look after my tires well.

“Ahead of qualifying we changed the fittings on the car and they worked out really well, so I’m very pleased with that. It looks promising for the race, we were strong in the sprint, but of course there is a lot of information that the other teams can analyze now, so I don’t expect it to be completely straightforward.”

It was a stellar race for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who placed second for seven valuable points toward the championship. The seven-time champion was over 13 seconds behind Verstappen after leading eight laps early on in the race.

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez ran third with the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz completing the top five.

Norris rebounded for sixth, followed by teammate Oscar Piastri and Mercedes’ George Russell.

Shortly after the sprint race, Verstappen continued his dominance with snagging Red Bull’s 100th pole in F-1. He led the way over Perez by 0.322 seconds.

“Overall, it was a very good Saturday, I couldn’t have really wished for more,” Verstappen said. “We celebrated the team’s 100th pole today with Checo (Perez) at the front of the grid with me in P2. Naturally starting from pole will help and although it isn’t always a guarantee, it does make life a bit easier.”

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso claimed third with McLaren’s Norris and Piastri qualifying fourth and fifth.

Hamilton’s day went sour as he was knocked out in Q1 due to a poor qualifying lap. He’ll start 18th after a promising second in the sprint race.

It’s the first time F-1 has competed at Shanghai Int’l Circuit since 2019 due to COVID.

“The support in Shanghai has been great, there are a lot of fans in the grandstand and it has been a while since we have raced here, so I’m very happy to be back and looking forward to tomorrow,” Verstappen concluded.