Ferrari have not been victorious in Shanghai since Fernando Alonso took the flag in 2013, although Vettel was second previous year, in a race dominated by Hamilton and Mercedes, who have won every meeting here since the turbo hybrid era began in 2014.
Crucially, it was a full second clear of Hamilton's quickest effort. It just kept getting better, so really happy.
Team boss Toto Wolff was likewise struggling to explain the turnaround in form between Mercedes and Ferrari.
But the Ferrari driver believes the collision was an honest mistake from Verstappen. "That was of course my fault", Verstappen told Sky Sports F1. However, his mechanics put a shift in and repaired his auto in enough time to make sure he got his laps in and tok part in qualifying albeit his performance was hampered by this dent in momentum. Temperatures of just 12 degrees Celsius have made tyre-heating a problem even on a track where degradation is so gruelling.
We're only two rounds into a record-equalling 21-race season, but already there are several drivers who are under pressure to deliver in qualifying.
"To have that much of a gap I think is a surprise".
"I think in a way I'm lucky that I got to the end of it", he admitted.
"He's done enough races so you know, but again, this can happen to you also when you've done 300 races so inside the vehicle, you know, you mustn't forget that the judgements are very hard to make but you ultimately have to have these things in mind and yeah, make sure you don't crash".
"We just need to have pace. If we have pace then we can undercut or overcut".
He says Mercedes will use the dominant pace it showed at the season-opener in Melbourne as a pointer to the car's potential, and methodically come up with solutions rather than panicking.
However, he was taking some comfort from the knowledge that it was easier to overtake at Shanghai than numerous circuits on the calendar. "But he made a mistake, locked up - it happens with a tailwind down that straight - I guess he misjudged and compromised both our races". I think we could have done it, but this is racing, these things happen. "We were quicker in the race in the last race, but they were able to hold on". This is not quite the showing they would have hoped for, However, to give you an example of how tight the midfield is, Gasly, who finished fourth in Bahrain, qualified in 17th for tomorrow's showdown.
"It's a lot hotter tomorrow, so it will be a real challenge to see if we can keep up with them", he added.
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