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Lewis Hamilton shattered the Shanghai lap record to take pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.

Mercedes are seeing red after losing out to Ferrari in the season-opener in Australia but the challenge from their resurgent rivals has had a galvanising effect on the champions according to Lewis Hamilton.

Only 14 drivers completed timed laps, with neither championship favourite Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes nor Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, victor of last month's season-opening race in Australia, setting times.

After seeing Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton charge to his sixth straight pole position, Bottas was left to settle for third on the grid for the second race in a row, 0.187 seconds off the pace.

The cars were able to run for only 22 of the scheduled 90-minute opening session while the second practice session was abandoned.

Hamilton beat Vettel by 0.186 seconds for his second pole in two races this year.

Hamilton jumped onto the pit wall to soak up the adulation of the crowd after clocking the fastest lap of one minute, 31.678 seconds to give the former world champion his fourth Chinese pole in five years.

The Brit signed a number of caps before throwing them to his fans and one of the fans threw a United Kingdom flag at Hamilton which he took back to his garage.

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And while Ferrari and Mercedes led the way, Fernando Alonso's prediction that his McLaren team would be in for a tough weekend here played true as he finished 17th of the 20 runners, 2.5 seconds adrift of Vettel's best time.

Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber will line up 14th on the grid ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who brought the first qualifying session to a premature end when he lost control of the rear of his auto on the exit of the final corner and slammed into the barriers.

The rookie lost control on the exit of the final corner, sending his auto spinning across the track and clattering into the barriers.

Giovinazzi walked away from the incident but his vehicle was not so fortunate, with bits of Sauber debris littering the pit straight.

A Q1 exit for Max Verstappen proved the qualifying hour's major surprise.

"Maybe I lost a little bit in the last corner, and maybe I chickened out on the brakes a bit too soon, but it was obviously very close with Valtteri so it was a good job we got enough margin to make it to the front row".

"I think our auto is strong no matter what". "If they look at the data I think they will see I was cruising across the line".

Red Bull's Verstappen suffered an engine software issue on his RB12 and the Dutch racer will now start from the end of the grid.