Bits from the pits: Alonso 'like an animal' in Shanghai, Lauda loses bet

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Fernando Alonso said he drove “like an animal” as he finished 13th in qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The two-time world champion has been curtailed by reliability issues with McLaren over the past three years.

“I’m driving like an animal,” said Alonso.

“We felt really non-competitive in FP3 so we went into Q1 with pessimism in the targets.”

“I did the lap flat out in some corners, not caring too much about the risks over the limit. We crossed the line and I thought ‘Wow, P10’ that should be enough for Q2.”

When asked what animal he was referring to in his messages, he said: “All the animals… A big one! An elephant or something!”

The Spaniard has previously expressed his frustration with not having a car that can compete with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.

Team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was eliminated in Q1, finishing 15th.

Fernando Alonso.

Struggles: Alonso in Shanghai.

LAUDA LOSES BET AGAINST HIS OWN MERCEDES TEAM

Mercedes chairman Nikki Lauda lost a ten-euro wager with Toto Wolff after betting against his team to take pole position for Sunday’s race.

Speaking after Lewis Hamilton secured pole, team boss Wolff took out a 10-euro note that he won from Lauda.

“I think he was happy about losing the bet. But generally Nikki Lauda is not happy about losing money overall,” Wolff said.

“I think he thought, either I win money or I am happy about being on pole. So it was a win-win situation for him.”

“I said ‘give me the 10 euros. I will spend it all tonight.'”

Mercedes will be looking to atone their defeat to Ferrari at the Australian Grand Prix, with Hamilton in pole and team-mate Bottas in third.

Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff.

Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff.

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Hamilton romps to pole position at Chinese GP

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On pole: Hamilton.

The Briton, stung by Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne two weeks ago, pipped his German rival by two tenths of a second in Shanghai with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen filling row two for Sunday’s race.

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

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamilton, forced to play second fiddle to Vettel in the third practice session earlier in the day.

“I managed to just chip away at it from session to session. It’s exciting for me because we really fight with these guys,” added Hamilton, a four-time winner in Shanghai.

“That’s what racing is all about. It really pushes you to raise the bar each time you go out there.”

Vettel, meanwhile, was left shaking his head in disbelief.

“I don’t believe that, it was the perfect lap,” said the four-time world champion, who looked unstoppable in Saturday’s practice run.

“I think we can still improve, so let’s see what the race looks like tomorrow. Conditions will be different.”

The signs point to another furious battle between Mercedes and Ferrari but with rain forecast for race day, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo could fancy his chances after qualifying fifth.

Team-mate Max Verstappen gets an unwanted opportunity to test the theory that overtaking has become harder in the new wider Formula One cars after only qualifying in 19th.

Ricciardo will start alongside Felipe Massa on the third row after the Brazilian clocked the sixth fastest time for Williams.

Behind them, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg edged out Sergio Perez’s Force India for seventh with Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso and Lance Stroll’s Williams rounding out the top 10 places on the grid.

Very much in the shop window for 2018, former world champion Fernando Alonso appeared pleased enough after steering his underperforming McLaren to 13th as he boasted over the team radio: “I pushed like an animal!”

There was a hairy moment at the end of the first session of qualifying when Antonio Giovinazzi smashed his Sauber into a wall on the pit straight, although the Italian walked away unhurt.

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IN PICS: Hamilton meets fans after aborted Chinese GP practice

Class act: Hamilton.

While there wasn't a lot for F1 fans to cheer about at Shanghai on Friday, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton did do his best to light up the mood.

Smog and damp weather combined to cut short morning practice and forced the cancellation of the afternoon action.

Frustratingly for fans, the issues weren't even track-related. It was safety reasons.

F1's race medical helicopter would have been unable to land at designated hospitals due to Chinese rules on flight visibility. So, after a delayed start to FP1 and an interruption due to deteriorating visibility, FP2 never got going but fans of the sport still stayed at the Shanghai International Circuit. And to the delight of many, an in-the-mood Hamilton (who didn't get the chance to drive at all on Friday) was ready to meet, greet and sign autographs for his fans. And well, that's what he did. Meanwhile, who do you think will win the Chinese Grand Prix 2017? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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